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Be smart, spot the scam!

15 May 2017

Social networking sites are great for socialising with friends and family, but scammers are increasingly using these platforms as a way to steal personal information, identities and funds.

This #FraudWeek2017 we're helping you to identify and avoid some of the common scams that take place over social networking sites.

Scamwatch statistics show that last year, reports of social networking scams grew by 79 per cent compared to the previous year, with losses totalling more than $9.5 million. A huge $7.5 million of those losses came from dating and romance scams, with fake trader scams, and other buying and selling scams rounding out the three most reported categories.  

Social media scams caught out Australians of all ages. Users aged 55 years and over lost the most per user – almost $18,000 on average – compared to around $1,000 for users aged 18 – 24 years. Females accounted for 62% of the $9.5 million total lost, with victims losing an average $8,956 (compared to $4,734 for men).

To help you safely navigate the social networking space, we’ve highlighted five common social media scams, with advice on how to avoid them, below.  For general tips that will help you socialise safely online, check out Socialising Online

  1. The romance and dating scam
    Online dating and romance scams cheat Australians out of millions every year, and scammers are increasingly using social media platforms to lure their victims.
    Be wary of requests for money from potential partners you’ve met online, and never send money, financial details, or personal information to someone you have never met in person.
     
  2. The fake online trader
    Scammers set up fake retailer accounts on social networking sites like Facebook and use stolen photos and logos to make them look like genuine online retail stores. Customers who fall victim may never receive their items, or wind up with something vastly different to what was advertised.
    According to Scamwatch data, Australians who fall victim to fake online trader scams lose an average of $206.
    Even if it’s a sponsored post, it might not be legitimate. Be wary of too good to be true discounts, and only pay for items using a secure payment service.
    For more advice on shopping online safely, visit Selling and shopping online.
     
  3. The random lottery scam
    Scammers often send messages via social media platforms advising recipients that they have won a lottery, draw or competition.
    The scammer will then request personal information to confirm your identity as winner.
    If you receive an out of the blue message claiming that you have won a prize, ignore it. The only winners in these scenarios are the scammers!
     
  4. The angler phishing scam
    Angler phishing is a sophisticated scam used by crooks on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
    Impersonating the social media teams of banks and retailers, scammers use realistic-looking social media accounts to respond to real consumer complaints posted on an organisation’s official accounts. From there, they trick users into clicking on malware links, or disclosing sensitive personal information.
    Avoid angler phishing scams by knowing the official social media account handle for the company you are dealing with, and looking closely at the reply you receive. Look for odd or misspelled account names or email addresses in the message, and if it looks suspicious, don’t respond. 
     
  5. The fake job offer
    Jobs and employment scams are common on social networking sites like LinkedIn.
    Scammers lure users with the promise of high-paying jobs for little effort, then ask them to hand over personal information, such as banking account details, or pay for a starter kit or materials relevant to the job.
    Be suspicious of any unsolicited 'work from home' opportunities or job offers, particularly those that offer a 'guaranteed income' or require you to pay an upfront fee.
    Do some background research on the organisation or product, and don’t deal with an employer or company that does not have a street address – they can be difficult to contact or trace later on.

Fraud Week is an annual initiative of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT), a group of government regulatory agencies and departments in Australia and New Zealand that work alongside private sector, community and non-government partners to prevent fraud.

Visit the Scamwatch website for more information about social media scams, how to protect yourself and what to do if you’ve been scammed. You can also keep up to date by following the Scamwatch Twitter @Scamwatch_gov.