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Social Media and Mobile Scams

Hand holding cell phone with security lockSome days, you hang out with your phone more than your friends. Don’t let scammers and spammers turn your smartphone into an annoyance. Use these tips to deal with spam texts, robocalls and social media-based scams.
Scam

Dealing with spam texts

Before you pick up a phone call or reply to an unfamiliar text message:
  • Delete texts that promise you “free” stuff. Don’t believe texts that promise you free electronics or other gifts if you click a link or forward the text to all your friends. The free stuff never materializes and sometimes the links contain malware.
  • Report spam. Forward spam texts to “7226” or “SPAM” to alert your carrier.
  • Report spam to authorities. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Block numbers. Block spammers’ numbers.
  • Don’t reply to texts from unknown senders. Spam texts may ask you to text “STOP” to stop receiving these messages. But spam commercial texts are illegal. Report spam but don’t respond. If you text back, you’ll just get more spam.
 

Dealing with robocalls

  • Do not pick up calls from unknown numbers. Let calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail so you can screen them. Answering a robocall or scam call just gets you more calls that you don’t want.
  • If you pick up by mistake, hang up. Do not ask robocallers not to call you back or interact with them at all. You’ll just get more calls.
  • Watch out for calls from numbers that resemble yours. Robocallers sometimes will phone you using “spoof numbers” that look like yours. Assume these calls are robocalls and let them go to voicemail.
  • DO NOT automatically call back numbers that called you. If the unknown caller didn’t leave a message, it was likely a robocall. Calling a number that generated a robocall may get you marked for more calls.
  • Block numbers from annoyance calls.
  • Don’t be panicked by a robocall. Many robocalls are designed to scare into thinking you owe money to the IRS, a debt collector or a court. You’ll never be contacted by any of these solely by phone. You would get mailed notices.
  • Report robocalls. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. 
 
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Spotting Social Media Scams

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be great for keeping in touch with friends, family and news. But because so many people use social media sites, scammers have gravitated here, too.

 

Identity Theft with magnifying glass

Protecting yourself from identity theft, scams and malware

  • Check your privacy settings on your social media accounts. Don’t share sensitive information – even news about a trip your taking with the world. If you do have something personal to share, limit it to your friends.
  • Opt for extra security protection (e.g. sending alerts to your phone when someone logs into your account from a new device, two-step verification, etc.).
  • Change your passwords on a regular basis and anytime after you’ve used Wi-Fi while traveling.
  • Use creative PINs and passwords that are difficult to guess.
  • Avoid letting apps access your information. Read privacy policies closely before you install an app.
  • Download system updates as soon as possible when you get an alert. Many are pushed out in response to security flaws that hackers are exploiting.
  • Double check if you get a friend request from someone you are already friends with.  Hackers often swipe people’s photos and names to create copycat social media accounts so they can hack into their friends accounts. Notify friends if you spot an impostor.
Thumbs down in red

Avoiding social media no-nos

  • Never give anyone your PIN or password.
  • Don’t click on a suspicious link in a direct message, tweet, or Facebook post – even if it comes from a friend or family member. If the message says, “OMG, check this out,” “LOL, you won’t believe this,” or something along those lines, it could be malware from a hacker.  
  • Delete or report suspect posts, and contact the person who sent it through a different account.
  • Don’t accept a Facebook friend request from a stranger.
  • Don’t disclose sensitive or personal information (for example, your bank account info) on social media or in a direct or private messages.
  • Don’t use the same passwords for multiple social media accounts.
  • Don’t use passwords that are easy to guess (your dog’s name) or hack. Instead, use a unique combination of numbers, letters, and special characters.
  • Don’t save your password in your browser.  

Avoiding Online Dating Scams

Sometimes, scammers infiltrate dating sites and apps. They may claim to be a college student in the United States, but they’re often a fraudster living overseas. Here are some warning signs of an online dating scam:

  • He/she claims to love you right away.
  • He/she won’t meet in person. They typically come up with a convincing story about why they can’t. For example, they might say they’re traveling for business.
  • Your new love interest comes up a clever sob story, and ask you to wire money.
  • He/she may pressure you to leave the secure chat room on the dating app and communicate via text or email.

Sometimes, scammers pose as individuals looking for love. They may claim to be a college student in the United States, but they’re actually a fraudster living overseas. Here are some warning signs of an online dating scam:

  • He/she claims to love you right away.
  • Your new love interest can never meet you in person.
  • He or she may pressure you to leave the secure chat room on the dating app and communicate via text or email.

Protect yourself from dating scams:

  • Never send explicit photos to someone you’ve never met. Scammers use them to blackmail victims.
  • Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person. Scammers often come up with sob stories meant to get victims to send money to help.

Chatting with someone online? Take our quiz to see if your love is for real.

Watch the Federal Trade Commission’s video to see the tricks online dating scammers use to get money from victims.

If you lose money to a dating scam or are approached by a scam date, report it.

 
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.