Today, more than 4.6 billion people are on social media, representing 58.4% of the total human population.
Even businesses realize social media's massive potential, with 73% of all small businesses investing time and money on these platforms. As ingrained as these platforms are in the daily life of consumers, they're also home to opportunistic scammers and fraudsters trying to dupe users with a multitude of scams.
As a brand, you must be aware of all these scams and their potentially detrimental effects on your business.
But it's not always easy to detect these frauds.
Why is it so hard to detect social media scams?
Social media scams are rampant on almost every platform.
Social media fraud losses comprised 26% of the total fraud losses reported in 2021. This number represents a shocking 18-fold rise in the last four years. It's a lucrative option for malicious actors because of how hard these scams are to detect for several reasons.
It's important to discuss those reasons to understand the gravity of the problem.
More than 20 social media platforms to manage everyday
There are over 20 social media platforms with over 250 million monthly active users (MAUs) and 7 with over a billion.
These numbers are only expected to grow further.
With the number of regional social media platforms exploding, billions of new users are coming into their ambit. This phenomenon's sheer scale and complexity make it a nightmare for IT security teams.
Understaffed and overworked, these teams will have to spend each waking hour jumping from site to site, trying to bring down fraudsters.
Several different types of frauds and scams to look into
Social media provides easy public access to personal information that can facilitate a variety of scams.
Pages and profiles sell pirated and counterfeit goods, conduct crypto, currency, and gift card scams, enable phishing and executive impersonation, and send out fake ads. Each scam on each platform requires a different technique to detect and take down.
Social media isn't governed by a common set of regulations
Unlike websites that come under the purview of regulatory scrutiny and a globalized system of common control, social media platforms are largely unregulated.
Each platform has policies that dictate what to post, how to post, and how to report abuse. This means that the SOC team needs to approach each platform differently.
In addition to an already heavy workload, learning the ins and outs of the 20+ platforms is nearly impossible. Combine this with the sheer amount of posted content the security team must scan for fraud, and one can understand why social media scams are so hard to detect.
Reporting and taking down fraudulent posts on social media is hard.
When traditional website scouring techniques falter on social media platforms, SOC teams must develop new techniques for each platform.
Even after fraudulent, infringing posts have been identified, taking them down is another task altogether.
Each platform has different definitions of wrongful posts with different steps to take down such content. Moreover, due to these differences, takedown success metrics need to be tracked for each platform individually, and this makes reporting complicated, with many readings to check daily.
The first step to putting a stop to these scams is to understand how they work.
Here are some of the most popular scams that have fleeced social media users.
What are the eight biggest social media scams to watch out for?
1. Lottery and gift card scams
Lottery and gift card scams prey on people's desire for money.
In a bid to make quick money, many unsuspecting victims end up taking the bait. These scams usually begin with unsolicited messages on social media claiming to give out gift cards for popular brands. The message will then most likely divert them to another page, where they'll be asked to complete a basic task like forwarding the message to their friends. Sometimes they also ask for additional credentials to be filled out, which are then stolen.
Lottery scams also begin in the same manner. They either ask the people to send their account information to complete the transaction or transfer a small amount of money to cover transaction costs. Many victims lose thousands of dollars in the vain hope of landing a big prize in the end.
2. Executive impersonations
Recently, Twitter handles impersonating Elon Musk's and Jeff Bezos' Twitter handles sent out tweets asking for investments in a certain crypto account. Assuming the endorsement to be real, persuaded victims ended up transferring money to the criminals' accounts.
The criminal first builds a fake profile centered around a real person. Using the plethora of publicly available information, a fake account impersonating someone influential is created. Then this account is used to send out fake messages and posts to people asking for money.
3. Account hacking
This is one of the most popular scams.
Every data breach exposes millions of social media credentials for criminals to exploit. These credentials are used to get into people's accounts using various techniques. The criminals change the passwords locking the actual owners out of the accounts.
Once hacked, the criminals then look to approach the user's network and scam them.
4. Crypto investment scams
This is a new scam that has picked up steam ever since crypto values have skyrocketed.
Preying on people's culpability, scammers pose as investment experts and ask people to transfer funds to their accounts. They promise to invest these funds in cryptocurrency and give them massive returns.
Due to the purported anonymity of blockchain, criminals are hard to track down. 37% of social media fraud losses reported in 2021 were related to such investment scams.
5. Social media phishing
Social media phishing can occur in a variety of ways. Criminals have access to so many tactics that it can be hard to nail down all of them.
Fraudsters can send you compelling texts that contain interesting information. But to access the information, you need to enter your personal details. These details are then stolen and used for other cybercrimes.
Several scams come under this category. The gossip scam, healthcare scam, photo scam, account deleted scam, Nigerian prince scam, and stuck abroad scam are just a few of the many ways social media phishing occurs.
6. Hidden or shortened URLs
Clicking on shortened URLs can lead to malicious websites if not checked properly.
Since these URLs do not show the full link, it's hard to discern where it will take you after clicking. More often than not, it'll be a nefarious site run by criminals that can either mine your data or download malware onto your device.
It's advised to use a URL lengthening service before clicking on it to check where it leads.
—> Click this link. I dare you. <—
7. Counterfeit/pirated goods
According to the FTC, 45% of total loss reports were related to online shopping scams.
These scams sell counterfeit or fake goods to unsuspecting consumers or take money upfront and never send goods. They cause massive reputational damage to brands.
Posts and pages advertising such goods need to be identified and taken down as soon as possible.
8. Quizzes and other information mining tactics
Data is one of the most sought-after commodities by cybercriminals.
From attractive quizzes to entice you to IQ tests, each one of them is set up to mine your data. Since these services are not chargeable, the value lies in the data they collect.
These quizzes have clickbait titles which make them a very compelling proposition. Once the developers of the quiz get the facts they need, they'll sell it off on the dark web to other malicious actors.
How AI and ML can help you eliminate social media scams?
With more than half the population on social media, it's a platform no self-serving business can overlook.
But as large a market social media is, it is an even larger nexus of scams, frauds, and cyber threats. It's almost impossible to tackle manually. The scale, sophistication, and granularity of the threat actors are simply unmanageable by traditional SOC practices.
It requires a refreshed approach, backed by automation and machine learning.
Cybersecurity personnel can use automation to build workflows that scour these platforms daily, scanning every post, image, ad, and other content to detect fraud. It makes the discovery process automatic, leaving your team to tackle more cognitive security tasks.
The second layer is that of machine learning.
These advanced algorithms can analyze, detect, and mark suspicious activity. In fact, it can even be trained to identify many scams, including content abuse, counterfeit products, copyright infringement, and fake ads.
Run together, the entire discovery, detection, and resolution process can be automated and run 24/7, ensuring your customers remain safe from social media scams.
Bolster's social media protection solution
It automatically detects fraudulent activities, be it an organic post or a paid ad, and removes it.
It can also remove malicious external links posted on social media, dismantle phishing and scam offers and take down impersonating profiles - all in just a few minutes.
Moreover, all the data and evidence it gathers is presented in an intuitive visual dashboard, making it easier for your security team to track all the activity.
Bolster is the only automated digital risk protection platform in the world that detects, analyses, and takes down fraudulent sites and content across the web, social media, app stores, marketplaces, and the dark web.