More Scammers Are Using Social Media To Target Victims

An increasing number of scammers are using social media to target victims and relying on social engineering tricks to convince people to part with their personal information or money.  The problem has grown serious enough that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has issued a formal warning to consumers.

According to a recently released FTC report:

“More than 95,000 people reported about $770 million in losses to fraud initiated on social media platforms in 2021. 

Those losses account for about 25 percent of all reported losses to fraud in 2021 and represent a stunning eighteen-fold increase over 2017 reported losses. Reports are up for every age group, but people 18 to 39 were more than twice as likely as older adults to report losing money to these scams in 2021.

More than half of people who reported losses to investment scams in 2021 said the scam started on social media. Reports to the FTC show scammers use social media platforms to promote bogus investment opportunities and even to connect with people directly as supposed friends to encourage them to invest. 

People send money, often cryptocurrency, on promises of huge returns, but end up empty-handed.”

Overall cryptocurrency scams are regarded as the number one threat for investors in 2022, according to a new report from the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). However, the FTC is cautioning all users to exercise caution and develop better habits when scrolling through their favorite social media platform.

They recommend setting limits on who can see your posts, taking advantage of increasingly robust privacy controls, opting out of targeted advertising, and doing more due diligence on any company you plan on doing business with before buying anything from them.

It’s good advice in general but it is especially important now given how prevalent social media-based attacks are becoming.

High Profile Instagram Accounts Being Held For Ransom By Hackers

Hackers have recently hit upon a new money-making scheme.  Some groups have started breaking into Instagram accounts belonging to people with high numbers of followers.

They are then holding those accounts hostage until the owner agrees to pay the ransom.  In some cases, the hackers are charging as much as $40,000 USD to return an account back to its user.

They’re gaining control of the accounts initially via some clever social engineering. The attack begins when the hackers contact the Instagram user claiming copyright infringement.

The email they send contains a link that takes the victim to a website the hackers control.  The user is prompted to enter their Instagram account information (username and password) which of course is harvested by the hackers.

Once they have that they log in and immediately change the victim’s password.

They then modify the account profile so that it includes the phrase:

”this Instagram account is held to be sold back to its owner,” followed by a contact link.

Clicking the contact link opens a WhatsApp chat session where the hackers make the ransom demands and wait.  If the victim doesn’t initiate contact via the profile link, the hackers will start sending text messages to the phone number associated with the account.  Either way, the negotiation process begins

Security researchers who have begun investigating the scam have concluded that at least one of the threat actors involved is based in Turkey.

At this point, there is no reliable information about how many Instagram attacks have been compromised in this manner. There also isn’t any information about how much money the hackers have made in total via this approach. If you are an Instagram user and you have an impressive number of followers it pays to at least be aware of the possibility.

Links In Stories Now Available For All Instagram Users

If you’re not an Instagram user you may not have heard of ‘Stories.’ They are vertical photos or videos with a duration of no more than fifteen seconds per clip. You can post multiple 15 second clips in a row as well.

The unique part is that they vanish after 24 hours of posting. Stories are not displayed in a user’s feed but rather at the top of a user’s app when they’re logged in. Users “tap through them” to view the set.

When Stories were first introduced the company limited their access making them available only to users with verified accounts who met a certain number of followers threshold. Instagram has now removed those restrictions by opening Stories up to all user accounts.

This is great news indeed if you’re an Instagram user or if you own a small business and you’re looking for a way to leverage the power of Instagram to expand your business. ‘Stories’ is a good tool to leverage.

Instagram has been pushing hard to innovate. Increased pressure from upstarts like TikTok prompted them to develop ‘Reels’ for Instagram which are short 15-second video clips that can be posted with other clips and introduced to your feed. And now Stories can include video clips created and shared as a Reel but they have a shorter lifespan.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg had this to say related to the change:

Reels is already the primary driver of engagement growth on Instagram. It’s incredibly entertaining and I think there is a huge amount of potential ahead. We expect this to continue growing and I am optimistic that this will be as important for our products as Stories is. We also expect to make significant changes to Instagram and Facebook in the next year to further lean into video and make Reels a more central part of the experience.”

If you’re not currently leveraging the power of Instagram you might want to consider. Its certainly worth doing a demographics study of your customers to see if they’re present in significant number on the platform and if so taking advantage of that fact.

Instagram Will Require Age Verification Soon

More and more social media platforms are taking steps to improve protections for younger folk. Instagram is the latest company to take steps in that direction with the recent announcement that the platform will soon require users to provide their date of birth if they have not already done so.

The DOB prompts are already present and if you’re an Instagram user you may have already seen them. As of now those prompts are opt-in. If you don’t want to provide your date of birth you can simply close the window. The day is coming however when you won’t have a choice. If you want to keep using Instagram you’ll have to report your DOB.

The change is part of a broader effort which seeks to make it harder for adults to contact teens or pre-teens on Instagram. The company is also monitoring user contacts and flagging certain adults as “potentially suspicious” if they have a habit of reaching out minors on the platform.

These are good changes and long overdue. Even most privacy advocates who are usually wary about providing more information to service providers of any type generally applaud the recent announcement.

In any case it’s very good to see more and more social media platforms taking solid steps to see to the protection of minors. The internet is (or can be) a wild and dangerous place. Anything we can do to make it even marginally safer for our children has to be counted as a good thing.

Kudos to Instagram for joining the ever-growing chorus of social media companies to embrace changes like this. A list that currently includes social media and technology giants like TikTok, YouTube and Google. While it will take some time yet to measure their full impact and overall effectiveness, these are undoubtedly moves in the right direction that will make our kids safer.

Facebook And Instagram Chats And Messages Get Cross Compatibility

If you use both Facebook and Instagram, either personally or in the conduct of your business, then a recent Facebook announcement regarding interoperability will make you smile.

The company has been working for years toward the goal of greater interoperability among all of its core services and this is a huge step in that direction.

Best of all is the fact that there’s nothing special you have to do as a user of either of those services. If you’re logged onto Facebook or using the Messenger app, you now have the option of sending a message directly to an Instagram user without requiring them to download and install the Facebook messaging app. It will simply appear in their Instagram interface.

Naturally, the reverse holds true as well. Instagram users can communicate with Facebook users without requiring the Facebook user to download and install the Instagram app.

This is great news and extremely convenient, but there’s more going on here than simply enhancing each user’s experience.

In tandem with that, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has been very open about his long term goals. More specifically, his goals to provide a more seamless communications experience that utilizes robust end to end encryption, making that communication safer and more secure. That’s good news whether you’re a casual user talking to family and friends, or an Enterprise user sharing sensitive or proprietary company information.

In any case, it’s great news indeed, and kudos to the folks at Facebook for making it a reality. Granted, the rollout has only just begun. At present, there’s only a limited amount of interoperability, which includes the ability to send and receive messages as described above. However, the company has been doggedly determined to reach this point, and they’re definitely not going to stop now. Give the new interoperability a try today, and stay on the lookout for more from the company in the weeks and months ahead.