What is social scamming?

Staying smart online is more important than ever, and for this week we draw attention to important issues, such as the burgeoning area of social scanning, discussing what it is and how to stay on guard.

Computers and phones can be a gateway to the world, allowing everyone to see what friends and family are doing with ease, something social networks like Facebook and Twitter have helped make possible, but these platforms hide a secret.

You might think that your newsfeed has your best interests at heart with the occasionally useless bit of information lurking inside, but in the past few years, a new kind of filth and evil can be found on these systems.

More or less the dark side of social media, the area of social scamming exists to take you for a ride, tricking you into believing in a post of information, getting you to click, and then spreading itself as if it were a form of virus, which isn’t so far from the truth.

So what is social scamming?

According to the experts, “social scamming is cybercriminals targeting social media channels with the purpose of gaining information about you or making quick money.”

That comes straight from Trend Micro’s Tim Falinski, Director of Consumer at Trend’s Australian and New Zealand division, who tells Pickr that social scamming is a problem that’s just going to get bigger.

“With Australians having one of the highest usage rates of social media in the world, unfortunately it is something we are seeing more and more of,” he said, adding that social scamming “involves cybercriminals simply creating content to try and lure you to click it so that they can infect your system”.

What does social scamming do?

Imagine you’re sitting on a social network like Facebook, and you suddenly see a post pop up for free $100 gift cards to JB HiFi. While the adage of there being no such thing as a free lunch might pop up, the fact that a friend of yours in your feed has liked it might suggest it’s true.

Except your first instinct would have been right, and in this situation — which has happened several times over on Facebook — the scam not only managed to get you to click on it, but clicking on it resulting in posting random garbage of scam-based links all over your Facebook while posting the same link to get your friends to click on the scam on your feed.

And because you voice support of this link, more friends click, and thus the cycle continues to perpetuate.

But as you can imagine, this is merely a scam, with the end-game about getting as many clicks and as many entries into a system where the scam can take hold of Facebook accounts that would normally never show material of this nature.

How can I protect myself from social scamming?

Social scamming, also called social engineering, has an easy solution, and surprisingly it’s not “why can’t Facebook take care of this”.

Facebook very likely has a solution in play to gradually work through all of the fake users, but we all post so much media, so much content, and so many random stories from the greater stories from the web — with marketing companies a massive part of this — that it’s all likely too much for Facebook to self-govern without blocking a few completely innocent folk in the process.

There’s also more to it than “why can’t Facebook take care of this”, because it happens on other social networks. You see it happen on Instagram, and you see it on Twitter, and we will continue to see it where people are, because, quite simply, social engineering is about the tricking of people, and scammers and digital con-artists will go wherever people are.

So the easy answer is actually so easy, it evades people: don’t touch them.

Don’t touch, don’t click, and don’t fall for anything you might think is dodgy, because on the internet, if you think it might not be real and might be after you, the paranoia may not be unfounded.

“The best way to protect yourself against it is don’t click on anything from anyone you don’t know or if the content is sensationalist,” said Trend Micro’s Tim Falinski, when we asked how to go on guard against this form of security exploit.

Internet security companies do offer “wall scanners” for Facebook to find out whether anything you clicked might be a form of social engineering, but they don’t account for the other social networks, so the best solution is simply not to click.

Even if it comes from friends, remember there’s no such thing as a free lunch, people, because that so-called “free lunch” could just ensnare you into something foul.

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