Making sure you don't become the next (or repeat) victim of online fraud can often feel like a losing battle. That's because with every extra layer of security that comes along, cybercriminals are always working just as hard to find ways around it.
These crooks want nothing more than to steal as much data as they can, so it makes sense that they tend to focus more on online sites where people really tend to congregate - like social media. But they're not just looking for more victims on social media, they're also using those different platforms to work together and sell their loots of information.
While criminals have long used social media to try to defraud you, a new report says their attempts have skyrocketed over the past year. And these shocking new numbers make it more apparent than ever how much more vigilant we need to be in order to keep our private information safe.
Social media and your private data
There's no shortage of bad actors trying to trick you into giving up information through social media. Earlier this month, we told you about a nasty Instagram phishing attack making the rounds. Before that, the dangers of the "Florida Man Challenge."
They're also not always based on fun. Sometimes, they try to dupe you by making it seem like you're making an investment into your future. For instance, those solar power tax break ads on Facebook? Yep, all scams.
Those kinds of attacks are evolving and increasing. And there are a number of reasons why it's happening.
Major increase in fraud attacks
Computer and network security company RSA just released a new report, 2019 Current State of Cybercrime. The big takeaway is that they're calling social media the new public square for fraud.
In last year's report, RSA pointed out the fast-growing trend of cybercriminals using social sites like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to communicate and make deals. They talk, they plan, they sell things like stolen identities, credit card numbers and other personal details that were taken from you.
By the end of the year, they say social media fraud attacks increased by a whopping 43% as crooks found new ways to exploit those platforms. Not just that, but they expect the trend to continue rising due to "ease of use, absence of fees and other benefits" of social media.
Unfortunately, there are real benefits of fraudsters using social media. As the report says, they're easy to use and the don't cost a dime, but another big part of that is hiding who they are.
They can look as real as you or me because they don't have to prove their identity, and can stay anonymously in the digital shadows. And encryption meant to protect your data is a double-edged sword because it also makes it harder to track down criminals.
Protecting yourself from fraudsters on social media
These crooks looking for a payday can come at you from several different directions. That's why it's absolutely necessary to stay vigilant.
A tried-and-true method is to vet any friend requests. Check out the profile before accepting because some can stand out as being obviously fake, especially if the account is only days old. If you think you're already friends with the person named in the request, check your list because it could be an impostor.
Watch out for spoofed links and ads that seem too good to be true. Just because they were allowed on a real social platform doesn't make them trustworthy. Social media sites like to make money through targeted advertising, and bad actors can slip through their guidelines.
As a reminder from a report earlier this week, stay away from personality quizzes. Facebook says it's about to curb a lot of them, but it won't happen overnight.
It's also not just about staying safe on social media. The RSA report also mentioned that cybercriminals are increasingly using mobile apps to to steal your data. In fact, they say fraud transactions from mobile apps increased 680% from 2015-2018! Watch out for scams like these, and be wary of certain apps - especially if they're on the Google Play Store.
Read the full RSA report by clicking here.
Over 40? You could be a target in this latest data breach
Data breaches are nothing new, but a recently-discovered database containing exposed records of more than 80 million U.S. households is much more mysterious.