Social media scams rampant. Water is wet.

I'm rather amused reading this article in the Globe and Mail today about social media scams. It talks about how people are falling for scams on social media sites time and again. While my initial reaction is to scoff, I have to constantly remind myself that these scams, social media based or otherwise, continue to work. Why? People are greedy, gullible and easily swayed in many cases. They want that $250 gift card for completing a survey or a free set of Ginsu knives for providing their banking details.

I think I just dated myself there.

From The Globe and Mail:

“People might be exposed to scams on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest from friends or followers where social-media accounts have been designed solely to promote fraudulent products,” said Wilcock.


But few people caught up in scams are reporting the incidents to police or other authorities.


The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that almost 95 per cent of fraud crimes committed in Canada go unreported.


A big reason for that is embarrassment, said Wilcock.

And this isn't much of a surprise to me. If I got taken like that I wouldn't be likely to want to have other people know that either. That being said, I am glad to read this in a mainstream publication as it means that the message is getting out there to a wider audience. Namely, the audience that really needs to hear it. The non-technical folks.

Why does this type of scam continually work? People are gullible in a large part. Case in point. The story from 2009 of one John Rempel from Windsor Ontario who was taken by a Nigerian 419 scam.

From the Windsor Star (via Wayback):

John Rempel said he quit his truck driving job, lost friends, borrowed money and crossed the globe in pursuit of a non-existent inheritance, after he was contacted by e-mail in what is known as a Nigerian 419 scam.


Rempel said he borrowed $55,000 from an uncle in Mexico and his parents gave him $60,000 on credit to cover fees for transferring $12.8 million into his name.


“They’re in it now because of me,” said Rempel, 22, breaking into sobs. “If it wasn’t for me, nobody would be in this mess. You think things will work out, but it doesn’t. It’s a very bad feeling. I had lots of friends.


“I never get calls anymore from my friends. You know, a bad reputation.”

While I find it incredulous that this works we have to remember that we are simple creatures. When you factor in social media and the ease of access to these sites it really is little wonder that this continues to be a successful avenue for scammers. 

Simple rule of thumb is, if it is too good to be true...well, you get the idea. Check with your older relatives. Ask the hard questions about their online activities. Check surfing histories if they allow it. Talk to them about the perils of confidence tricksters online. This goes for kids as well. The better educated they are the more prepared they'll be when they encounter a scam. 

No, you did not receive a multi-million dollar inheritance from your unknown uncle in Nigeria. Give your head a shake. Avoid your own bad reputation and help out someone who might need a clearer understanding of the perils of social media and online scams in general.

(Image used under CC from kightp)

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