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How to Protect Yourself from the Risks of Social Media

The harsh reality is -criminals love social media because information posted online can be seen by anybody, anywhere in the world. A hacker in Ukraine or North Korea can see social media posts from Australians as soon as they are posted. The same networks that connect you to friends and family, provide a conduit for crime and other forms of anti-social behaviour.

Potential employers and even banks and credit card companies are now checking social media as part of the character and reference checks undertaken. Some credit agencies are using social media profiles to assess the risk and character of loan or credit card applicants.

This means that possibly one negative comment on social media could cost you a loan, or employment.

Common Social Media Scams to Avoid

Most social media scams are variations of ‘phishing’, whereby criminals try to trick you into divulging sensitive information (such as usernames and passwords). These scams used to be simple to spot over email but are now becoming increasingly sophisticated. Today’s phishing posts sometimes look like they come from friends or family.

Here is what to look out for:

  • Fake Twitter messages. Criminals intercept a tweet from a bank or business and replace it with a fake message that asks for credit card or account information. In some rare cases, they can even take over a bank’s Twitter account and send fake responses to customers in hopes of capturing account numbers.

  • Fake comments or posts. When a popular news story generates a lot of social media buzz, online criminals will often add posts of their own to the commentary. The posts sometimes contain fake headlines about celebrities, like famous actors or footballers. People who click on these fake links are actually downloading malware to their phones or computers.

  • Fake videos. Fraudsters put out what looks like a live stream of an event people might normally have to pay for, such as a game, fight or concert. They post the stream on social media. People who click on the ‘video’ unknowingly download malware instead of the event.

  • Fake discounts. Criminals set up a false social media account for a popular business, like Netflix or even accommodation services. The fake account offers discounts to people, who provide their credit card or bank account information. What is even more alarming is that in some cases the discounts are forwarded by friends or family who have also fallen for the trap.

How to Protect Yourself on Social Media

Now that you can recognise some of the more common scams used on social media, it’s time to take preventive action. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself on social media:

  • Make sure the privacy settings on your device and on your social media profiles are set so only your friends can see your posts.

  • Never post anything online that you may regret posting later, such as negative comments, controversial opinions or sexual material.

  • Never apply for loans or credit cards on social media. Instead, apply directly at the organisation’s official website, such as Holiday Coast Credit Union.

  • Never respond to social media messages from people you do not know. There are dangerous people online; you never know who you might be chatting with.

  • Use your online banking via your banking App or the traditional internet banking to regularly check your financial accounts for any suspicious activity. Remember to report any suspicious transactions immediately to your financial institution.

  • Ignore trolls. These pests try to provoke you into an argument on social media. They can ruin your life by provoking a negative reaction or cyber-stalking you. Be careful because some of them are actually running phishing scams.

Social media is a revolutionary technology with many positives, but you have to be very careful with it. What you say and do on social media can impact your life and your finances. For more tips on using social media safely, call Holiday Coast at 1300 365 724, or drop into a Holiday Coast branch near you.

This article provides general information only and should not be relied upon as financial product advice.

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