I recently had a major Social Media scare, the story
Of my Social Media Platforms, I am most engaged on Facebook and LinkedIn. I do, however own an Instagram and Twitter profile from my early days of promoting my business. On a beautiful Fall day, I was perusing my Facebook friend’s pages and received a Facebook messenger alert. I did not recognize the individual. They proceeded to explain they were a clothing line startup company looking to flesh out their Social Media presence and that my Instagram handle was the same name as their company. They were willing to pay me for the account! How exciting, right? Not so fast.
I spoke to a lawyer to understand how to valuate an Instagram handle and safely proceed with such a transaction. They suggested I have a contract in place and that payment is done on my terms. I found a “Middleman” service that had great reviews and a track record of success. The buyer then told me he didn’t feel comfortable using them since he’d never heard of them before. His “advisor” suggested a completely different site.
This is where it got weird
The site was a Wix website, that was one page with a chatbox. The site itself looked very amateurish; the title of the page was the generic “Home | Mysite1” placeholder text rather than a complete, SEO friendly, title referencing the name of the company. If I didn’t have any other red-flags, this was definitely a big one. When I asked about the legitimacy of the site, the buyer began to tout accolades… for a different site as if I wouldn’t know the difference.
The whole ordeal got stranger and stranger with the middleman attempting to get me into a group chat with the buyer and the buyer suggesting he’d pay AFTER I transferred the account. At this point, I’d had enough. I politely thanked everyone for their time and backed out of the transaction not having shared any personal information. I blocked all parties on all social media platforms and went about my day.
The next day, I saw an email from the Middleman stating:
I then went back to the Middleman site and was met with a barrage of obscenities and personal threats to me and my family.
What I Did Next
Needless to say, in the history of those swiping their brow after having successfully averting fraud, one has never been as relieved as I. I promptly took screenshots of EVERYTHING! Upon speaking with the lawyer and sharing all I had done to report them, she suggested additional steps. All in all, I performed the following actions:
- Reported the attempted fraud to Facebook,
- Reported the accounts on Instagram,
- Sent a letter detailing what occurred to Wix.com’s Abuse & Rights Infringement department,
- Filed a complaint with the FBI Cyber Security Division,
- Filed a scam report with the BBB.org
- Deactivated my Facebook account and advised my family to do the same.
In today’s evolved digital landscape and also a time of a Global Pandemic, consumers flock to online resources to perform transactions
versus dealing with their brick and mortar counterparts to maintain their and their family’s safety. This also means there are increasing opportunities for evil-doers to take advantage of people with their increased opportunity pool. (IC3.gov) See Figure 1 for more startling statistics.
Ways to Protect Yourself
As I look back on this whole ordeal, I am so very blessed that they were sloppy and lost credibility with their words. It got me to thinking that it was so believable that anyone who doesn’t take the time to do the research I did, could very well become a victim. I continued to look for some proactive resources to prevent something like this from happening again in the future to me or to anyone else. Some of those tips from the BBB.org/scamtracker and the FBI Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov) included:
- Always question and triple-check all parties before engaging in any activity. Learn to spot when something doesn’t feel right. Resist the urge to move quickly because it sounds good; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Keep your computer virus protection updated by downloading the latest versions of protection software that are continuously updated with new threats.
- Talk to your kids and those that aren’t as familiar with Social Media about ways to safely engage online.
- Don’t share passwords or personally identifiable information (PII) with anyone you don’t know no matter how “nice” or “professional” they seem. Also, try to use different credentials for each platform so in the event the scammer has access to one, they can’t go and hack into your other accounts.
- Do a domain research. Chances are if the domain is brand new, there can’t possibly exist a track record of the suspected company doing good (or bad) business.
- If the contact information references a generic @gmail or @yahoo email address instead of an email related to their domain, run!
- Even if you choose to move forward, use secured, and trackable payment methods.
In my experience, all was rainbows and good vibes… until I chose not to move forward. The tone of the communication immediately turned malicious and threatening. No reputable business would speak to a customer in this way. Sure, they can be displeased they didn’t make the transaction, but a legitimate company would keep the relationship for any future business opportunity and move on to the next customer.
- When speaking with your kids or loved ones, what are some tips you’d share so they can stay protected?
- Can you spot a fraudulent cyber evil-doer? What actions did you take to avoid becoming a victim?
- BBB.org. (2020, April 29). BBB Tips: 10 Steps to Avoid Scams. Retrieved from https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/8767-bbb-tips-10-steps-to-avoid-scams
- Crane, C. (2020, May 22). Social Media Scams: 29 Disturbing Scam Statistics. Retrieved from https://sectigostore.com/blog/social-media-scams-29-disturbing-statistics/
- IC3.gov. (2020, April 1). Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): Cyber Actors Take Advantage of COVID-19 Pandemic to Exploit Increased Use of Virtual Environments. Retrieved from https://www.ic3.gov/Media/Y2020/PSA200401
- McCarthy, N., & Richter, F. (2020, February 18). Infographic: Americans Are Losing Billions Due To Internet Crime. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/chart/20845/financial-losses-suffered-by-victims-of-internet-crimes/