Staying cyber-aware: New social media scams to watch out for

As cybercriminals take to new tactics on social media, one UAB expert wants the public to be informed and stay aware of the newest scams.

Social Media Scam StreamAs cybercriminals take to new tactics on social media, one UAB expert wants the public to be informed and stay aware of the newest scams. Every day, Americans come across scams, whether through email, text or social media. According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 2.8 million consumers reported a fraud in 2021, marking it the highest number of reports dating back to 2001.

University of Alabama at Birmingham expert Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Computer Science, warns that cybercriminals and scammers are using new techniques that can be very convincing. 

Out with the fake, in with the real

Some cybercriminals used to create fake accounts on social media platforms to carry out a scam. But now, Hasan’s research on cybercrime shows a change in the methods used.

“Instead of the fake accounts, scammers are now hacking individuals’ real social media accounts in order to better their chances of successfully receiving information or money,” he said.

To combat this, Hasan suggests updating your passwords periodically on social media channels and enabling multi-factor authentication to log in, if it is available.

20 questions to gain personal information

Cybercriminals are looking for an opportunity to get not only money, but also information. Information such as your pet’s name, favorite schoolteacher and childhood best friend are all examples of questions that can be used as security questions when a password is forgotten.

A recent example that Hasan recalled is a social media post asking, “My friend is looking for an old-fashioned girl’s name for her baby. Please post your grandmother’s or mother’s maiden name.”

By using a real account and posting the question, friends and family may let their guard down and provide an answer without knowing it could reveal password security answers. 

Another technique that is being used by scammers includes social media posts that say, “If you had $3,000 to spend, what would you spend it on? We are giving out money to 20 people.”

Once people answer, the scammer will then ask them to check their inbox and will start to send scam links or bait them into further fraudulent scams.

To avoid this, Hasan suggests not interacting with such scammers or clicking on any link included in such posts and message, and to be careful about posting personal information that can be used to answer security questions.   

Inside Ragib Hasan 5Ragib Hasan, Ph.D.
Photography: Lexi Coon
Too good to be true

One of the more popular techniques of social media scams now involves selling items. Hasan says this could look different each day, and it may be hard to tell which sellers are real and which ones are fake. One sign could be the item’s being listed a significant amount below usual asking price.

“An example of this is a car, such as a Jeep Wrangler, being sold for $1,000, which is far below the normal price range,” Hasan said. “Another indicator of a scam is if the seller says the item is in Birmingham; but when you click on the seller’s profile, you see that the same car is being sold in 25 different cities. Scams like these are used to bait in low-income people looking for a car in the highly competitive market.”

Hasan suggests doing some research on the seller or the company before making a purchase. Also, look at the website you are purchasing from. If the deal is real, it will be listed on the retailer’s home website without clicking through to the link.

Trade safe zones

After dodging fake sellers when buying online, most consumers’ next task is to find a safe place to meet the seller to pick up the item. UAB provides the community with the opportunity to buy, sell and trade goods safely on campus in the new Trade Safe Zone

The zone is in the UAB Police and Public Safety Department parking lot at 1117 14th Street South, has video surveillance and a UAB Help Phone, and is well lit. The parking spot is designated with a sign and bright green paint on the asphalt.