When It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is (A Scam)
How safe was your family online in the last year? According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report 2014, they weren’t as safe as you might think. The study analyses threat data from over 157 countries, more than 41.5 million attack sensors and a database of over 60,000 vulnerabilities, making it the most comprehensive picture of internet security in the world – and it says mobile users are falling for more “too good to be true” scams than ever.
An incredible 38% of mobile users have experienced cybercrime, and it’s often down to their own behaviour. More than half of users store sensitive files online, a quarter mix personal and work files in their cloud storage accounts, and – most startling – around one in five mobile users share their passwords with family and friends. But, even without these mistakes, there are some big trends to be aware of.
While some scams have declined in popularity, by far the leading type on social media in 2013 was the fake offer, which made up an amazing 81% of all scams. These offers all look too good to be true – because of course they are – yet a staggering number of people still fall for the lure of something for nothing. Fake offer scams come in multiple forms, all with different intended targets.
Too good to be true
For teens, it can be the offer of free calls and texts. One bogus app claimed to deliver free minutes to social media users – but only if they entered their login details and forwarded the offer to ten friends. Other social media posts play on celebrity culture, posting links of the Facebook pages of actors and pop stars and using the accounts of those who click through to lure their friends with realistic-looking messages. It’s a blend of login phishing and old-fashioned spam, and it’s startlingly effective at rapidly propagating a scam around social networks and app stores.
Another continuing scam involves Facebook Likes. A post such as “Gain 100 followers by clicking this link and filling out a survey” might well direct the user to a legitimate page or a genuine app, but the action makes the scammer money through affiliate links or advertising. It goes without saying that either the free Likes never materialise, or if they do that they’re made up of bots, fake accounts or other compromised users.
For adults, the lure is often dating. Fake users will contact those looking for love, sending compliments and posting provocative photos, followed by a link that leads to a webcam site where credit card details are requested in order to get a few days “free” access – which quickly becomes very expensive access. Many people still fall for such scams, often choosing to ignore the obvious common tell that their new acquaintance is coming on quite strong.
In the grand scheme of things social media and mobile scams might be small change, yet they greatly affect the individual users involved – and they’re so easily avoidable. If something seems too good to be true – be it an offer on Facebook, an amazing free app or a message from a supermodel – it almost certainly is too good to be true. Convincing yourself otherwise can be a costly mistake to make.
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