Social Media and Cybercrime

Have you ever gotten a Facebook Friend request, but you are already friends with that person? How about a wink or a suggestive message from someone you don’t know? Are you on a dating site communicating with someone who won’t video chat with you? Is someone offering you a great income opportunity on LinkedIn–but asking you to deposit some money to get started? These are common signs of social media scams. Read on to learn more about how these scams entrap their victims.

Web of Profit researchers calculated that over 1.3 billion social media users have had their data compromised within the last five years and between 45-50% of the illicit trading of data from 2017 to 2018 could be associated with breaches of social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Facebook.
~Into the Web of Profit, Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy (PDF)

Facebook clones

Anyone can create a Facebook account with any name and profile picture they choose. Scammers frequently “clone” existing accounts. The scammer will then send Friend requests to Friends they see in the original profile. At least some of the requests will probably be accepted, allowing the hacker access to all of the shared profile information. Hackers use the profile information to mine information, and to send messages that appear to come from a trusted friend.

Are you giving away your secret recovery answers?

Remember those secret account-recovery questions? Like the name of your high school, favorite dog, city of birth? How many of those questions can be answered by a hacker with access to your social media account? How much of your personal life do you reveal on social media?

We all love a game!

Do you answer polls, play games, and compete with friends in online contests? Sometimes these games are designed to extract information in a way that you don’t expect. Any question you answer online is likely to be recorded and saved for marketing or, if created by a scammer, for fraud.

Malware delivery on social media

Cybercriminals use advertisements to install malware on a victim’s computer. Past schemes have included fake ads for Ray-Ban sunglasses or Nike shoes that, when clicked, open websites that install malware. Photo-tagging scams are popular too. Be careful of notifications sent in emails and text messages. Make sure they are from the social media site by checking the sender’s address. Open the social media app to respond and interact.

LinkedIn cybercrime targets working professionals

Cybercriminals have learned to use the business relationships in LinkedIn to perpetrate scams. Emails that appear to come from LinkedIn and ask you to confirm you know a connection or endorse a skill for a connection may lead to a dangerous website. Always log into your account at to post, interact with connections, or respond to requests.

Scammers post job scams, fake income opportunities, and fake contact requests on LinkedIn. Be careful of secret-shopper and work-from-home offers. Stop and think, is this too good to be true? Dig into offers and research the businesses behind them.

Important steps to take

  • Use strong passwords and enable 2-factor authentication. Your social media accounts can be a treasure trove of personal information that can help a hacker learn enough about you to bypass simple passwords. Use a strong unique password for each social media account and enable 2-factor authentication to keep your information safe.
  • Check your privacy settings. Dig into the privacy and security settings in your social media app. Are you comfortable with who can see your basic information, contacts, and posts? Options and policies change; when was the last time you checked your privacy and sharing settings?
  • Be Selective About What You Post. Your posts can tell a crook a lot about your daily habits. Your posts can tell a crook when you are at work and on vacation. Take a look at your posts for the past year. Pretend you are a hacker. Are you comfortable with what you share and who you share with?

Consider what you share to be both public and permanent

Social media gives us the opportunity to share our lives and participate in the lives of family and friends. Social media can help alleviate lonliness and depression. Some studies suggest that seniors gain important cognitive benefits when active on social media. Just be aware of what information you are sharing and consider anything you post to be both permanent and public.

Test your knowledge

CGOS Social Media
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1. You should review your security and privacy settings at least annually, and whenever you receive a notification of changes