Top 5 social media scams, ways to avoid hackers and virus on Facebook, Twitter and other sites

Social media makes keeping up with friends easy, but it can also make you a target.

Balloons filled with helium are part of an old-fashion social and auction put together by Kristi Bowers to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research. She also raises money and awareness the modern way, through social media.

"Some of our best support can be raised through the internet or social media," says Kristi.

Still, she knows friends on social media can become foes. A place where scammers, spammers and hackers lurk every day.

"I had someone share a picture and they said click on this picture and it looked legitimate, like it was somebody trying to share something with me."

It wasn't long before Kristi found out the friend who supposedly sent her the picture had been hacked, and it was linked to a crippling virus.

"And to think, you're one step away from crashing your computer. I know I keep a lot of documents and all my family photos and all those things on the computer, and you get a virus and a lot of times those things can't be recovered," Kristi said.

"They're looking to set you up," said Tim Stadler, a long time Tulsa police cyber crime detective, who now specializes in cyber security for the city.

He's heard stories from victims of social media scammers and hackers all the time.

"They can be devastating to their personal life, as far as their identify being stolen to their home computer, to their work computer and their employer's work computers," said Stadler.

Experts point to these five top social media scenarios that can lead to scams, usually through an infected link or a hacked account.

  • A Facebook post from a friend inviting you to link to a photo album.
  • Emails disguised to look like they're from Facebook notifying you a friend has commented on one of your photos.  
  • An instant message from a friend with a plea for financial help.
  • A tweet inviting you to check out a funny video through a short link.
  • And a message that appears to be from Linked In inviting you to download documents for a meeting.

Stadler says these five scenarios are just the beginning.

"Over half of all tweets and texts are actually spam or malware virus type links."

To protect yourself, Stadler says never click on a link unless you absolutely trust who sent it to you.

Instead of using the link, to see photos, for example, go directly to the original host site. And if you're suspicious of a link, Stadler says Google it, which will usually tell you if it's a hoax.

More recommendations, double check your privacy settings on Facebook, as they may change as the format changes. And you may want to cut some of your Facebook friends loose.

"If you have more than 80 friends, you've got people you don't even know as a friend. And those are the scammers, those are the spammers."

It's all advice that Kristi's learned to take seriously when it comes to social media.

"I just think we need to be more cautious about the time we're spending, and what were clicking on, and just because it's from one or our quote, unquote "friends" on Facebook, doesn't mean it's safe."

Stadler also recommends a website called www.malwarecity.com, it's up to the minute on the latest cyber scams.

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