New research has claimed nearly half (47%) of social media users have fallen victim to some kind of shopping scam on social media, and they haven’t fared much better against other common frauds.
A report from Atlas VPN (opens in new tab), discussing digital marketing company GoodFirms (opens in new tab)’s survey of 560 social media users, shows that phishing links (36.7% admitted to falling for one), gift card scams (also 36.7%) “help” scams (33.3%) and fake job listings (30%) are amongst the most effective scams, with many more on the list besides.
As Atlas addresses, the techniques between scams may change (a phishing link being a largely automated process while a romance scam involves direct contact with a threat actor, for example) but the motives remain the same: to steal money, which might also mean data.
Preventing scams online
With the world rushing online to take advantage of the best Black Friday deals (such as ours on standing desks), the scourge of scams is unlikely to calm down any time soon. The only answer, it seems, is educating rabid shoppers to become savvy ones.
With its report, Atlas VPN gave their top tips for staying safe online. Among them, asking whether a deal is too good to be true. This will always be an ever-reliable tip for those worried about being scammed online. Technology evolves, but critical thinking skills are a vital constant.
As part of this, it recommends looking closely at a website link or profile to check its veracity, noting that a business’ social media or web page should look professional and have perfect spelling and grammar.
This is true, but it’s worth adding that it’s always prudent to inspect an actual web address, if you have any doubts about where it leads, before clicking on it. Atlas VPN suggests shopping at well-known brands, but you may have been served a link to a site pretending to be that brand, with a very subtle typo in the web address.
This is also the case for mobile shopping apps. Scam apps may pay for higher placement in the listings for a certain keyword than the legitimate app you’re probably looking for. Take a moment to compare what you’re looking at with what you’re looking for, and don’t be afraid to scroll.
Atlas VPN, naturally, recommends using a VPN service if using public WiFi to shop, although we’d just recommend waiting until you get home, where possible.
It also notes the importance of randomly generating passwords for every account you keep online, and storing them in a password manager.
This may be cumbersome, but if you do manage to fall victim to a scam, you’ll mitigate the risk to your data much more than making your password, er, “password”.