Class is back in session. Lesson 2: dangers of social media scams

Every student heading back to school has a smartphone in their pocket, using it to communicate, socialize and kick back and relax. However, an increasing number of scammers are out there right now targeting unsuspecting students. According to Pew Research Center 71% of young adults aged 18–29 use Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites. Scammers target college students using popular social media networks because they're vulnerable. It’s easy for college students to let their guard down and fall victim to schemes stealing their identity or draining their bank account. Sometimes the bad guys even trick students into becoming accomplices to their fraud with the lure of easy money. Scam artists see a big opportunity with a college student’s personally identifiable information (PII). Let’s look at way’s cybercriminals use social media to target college students.

Save or earn money by downloading this app scams

Many scams on social media post false advertisements claiming the reader can win money or save money by downloading an app — albeit with a sketchy link. If students tap on the link or try to download the app, they will instead install malware to their device — exactly what the scammers were hoping for. These links are usually shortened to bit.ly, making it difficult to see outright that it’s a malicious link. Once scammers trick someone into installing malware on their phone, they work diligently to steal password information and PII. If successful, this leads to a social media takeover, giving the trickster the ability to post ads, message the victim’s friends and create spam posts.

Card cracking scams make victims an accomplice to fraud

College students and other young adults are the primary targets of a scam called card cracking, which is a type of account fraud. Targeted mainly through social media, the goal is for the scammer to acquire the accountholders checking account information or debit card and PIN in a money-making partnership. There are different variations of card cracking, let’s look at two.

In one scenario, a scammer reaches out via social media with an online job offer or promise of financial aid that involves a money exchange. The bad guys ask for bank account information to deposit money and then make a deposit with fake, stolen or counterfeit checks. Next, they have the victim send them money or they make an immediate withdrawal from the victim’s account. By the time the fake check or bogus deposit gets flagged, the money is already gone, and the accountholder is broke.

In a different version of the scam, with the lure of easy money for the student, fraudsters convince their victims to share their debit card and PIN, telling them to report the card stolen to recover the money. The fraudster cleans out the bank account, not sharing the promised portion of the money with the accomplice.

Worse yet, most victims who fall for this scam don’t realize they are committing a crime. Being charged as an accomplice to a crime is a very serious offense.

The car wrap scam, get paid to drive

Another current hot scam on social media — get paid to drive, what could be easier than that? The shyster offers a large sum of money to a student just to drive around with their car wrapped in an advertisement. Sounds cool and easy. When the intended target responds, the scammer sends them a counterfeit check to deposit into their account with instructions to immediately send payment to a pre-selected decal agent who will put the ads on their car. The student is told to keep a portion of the deposit check to pay themselves. In the end, the bogus deposit check will bounce, leaving the student to foot the bill for the money they’ve already sent to the decal agent who is really the scammer. You can read more about car wrap scams on the FTC’s website.

Victim recourse

Students who fall prey should take the following steps:

  • Stop all contact with the con artist and keep copies of all communications
  • Report the matter to local police department * Report the incident to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.

While social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends, it’s also a way for fraudsters to take advantage of college students. Through the stress of being in a whole new world, it is easy for college students to let their guard down. A good rule of thumb is to beware of easy money offers as they are rarely legal.

As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

(Partially reprinted from Shazam)

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