Social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family. Especially while keeping our distance during the pandemic. But consumer advocates are sounding an alarm about fraudsters lurking on social media. There’s been a record-shattering number of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about social media scams.
Remember that GECU will never ask for your account details via social media platforms. Any message that you receive from us on social media will come from one of our official accounts and will only be in response to a comment or message that you sent us. Our official GECU social media accounts are:
WHY THE SUDDEN RISE IN SCAMS?
Reports from the FTC show that scams that started on social media have more than tripled in the past year! When the job market is tough, scammers target people who are looking for work or are trying to bring in extra income. Economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may have created ideal conditions for these scams to multiply.
In the first six months of 2020, people reported losing a record high of almost $117 million to scams that started on social media.
HOW TO IDENTIFY SOCIAL MEDIA SCAMS
Social media scams can take many forms. They can come from a link posted to your wall, feed, or sent via direct message which could lead you to downloading malware that can spread further through your devices. This malware could also be targeted to steal information from your device such as usernames, passwords and other financial information.
Aside from malware, new and more sophisticated scams involve confidence schemes or tricks. The scammer takes on the role of an authority figure, an “entrepreneur,” or may even attempt to build a friendship or romantic relationship with you to gain your trust and eventually access your funds.
MONEY MULE SCAMS
A money mule scam uses a “get-rich-quick” claim to convince you to deposit a check or provide your bank account information for an offer that’s just too good to be true. One of the most common ways to fall for this type of scam is by depositing a check into your account and sending back the funds, or a portion of them, to the scammer. These checks are usually false, leaving you on the hook and in debt once the funds don’t clear your account.
This particular scam is especially problematic as funds may appear to be available in your account, but later will be identified as fake or stolen. If you help a scammer move illegal money — even if you didn’t know it was illegal — you could become what law enforcement calls a money mule and get into legal trouble. Scammers may also ask you for your account number and push to get access to your bank account to “make it easier” or “quicker.” In the end, the result is the same, your bank account is compromised and could potentially be used in illegal transactions.
The best way to avoid these scams is to understand that there’s no such thing as “easy-money” and that anything that seems too good to be true, probably is. Don’t deposit checks on behalf of another person and don’t provide your bank account information to anyone.
CARD CRACKING SCAMS
In this case, you’re asked to provide credit or debit card information, credentials to log in to your mobile or online banking account, or a PIN to access your card or accounts. Once you provide access to the scammers, they may deposit worthless checks using a mobile deposit, but they can also clean out your bank account because they have your information. Additionally, the scammer may use your account to move other stolen funds and cover the tracks of illegal activities, similar to money mule scams.
There’s no reason why anyone other than yourself should have access to your account. That “easy money” promise won’t be fulfilled and is more likely to get you into financial and even legal problems later.
Powerful and touching images of people in need and victims of disasters on social media often make us want to do something to help. Unfortunately, there are criminals who take advantage of people’s natural desire to help. Many put up fake websites after a tragedy or a natural disaster, sometimes even go as far as impersonating celebrities or public figures with charities. However, what looks legitimate may not be.
Always double-check the validity of a charity. You can type the name in a search engine to find more information or find the authenticity of a charitable organization using a useful tool like Charity Navigator or GuideStar.
TIPS TO HELP AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA SCAMS
Scammers can hide behind their profiles on social media. They can take over an account, create fake profiles from people in your community, or join a virtual group that you’re a part of to encourage you to trust them. Always remember that if someone reaches out to you with an offer that seems too good to be true or otherwise unrequested, it most likely is.
Check out the list below to learn how you can make it harder for scammers to target you:
- Never provide your banking information to anyone.
- Review your social media privacy settings and limit what you share publicly.
- Before you buy something based on an ad or post, check out the company. Type its name in a search engine with words like or “scam” or “complaint.”
- Only send money to people you know and after verifying that the request is legitimate.
- For most legitimate requests, there’s always time to think and ask questions — be wary if the request is urgent.
- If someone appears on your social media and rushes you to start a friendship or romance, slow down. Read about romance scams.
- If you get a message from a friend about a grant or financial relief, call them. Did they really send that message? If not, their account may have been hacked. Check it out before you act.
- If you notice a social media account impersonating GECU, send us a private message and contact us on that platform.
- If you come across a suspicious account sharing posts promoting scams, make sure to report it to the social media platform.
Avoid becoming a scam victim on social media and elsewhere by taking the time to evaluate financial requests from people you don’t know and by improving your financial security knowledge. GECU makes every effort to keep your personal and financial information safe from online threats. You can find more details, as well as tips to help protect your accounts and personal information in our Fraud Resource Center.