Digital Deceptions: Protect Yourself from Social Engineers on Social Media

July 25, 2023 | Article | 5 min | Personal Insights

Social media has become an integral part of our lives, connecting us with our friends, family, and community. While social media platforms offer countless opportunities for communication and engagement, they also present risks that users need to be aware of, particularly when it comes to social engineering and scams. Read on so you can protect yourself from social engineers on social media.


What is social engineering?

Social engineering is the manipulation of our natural human tendency to trust what we see and who we interact with.

On social media platforms, these attackers manipulate their victims easier online than in person, using the openness found in online interactions for their own gain: access to accounts, information to be used against someone later, or financial exploitation.

Social engineering risks on social media include:

  1. Impersonation: Scammers may create fake profiles that closely resemble those of your friends or family, or even pretend to be from your bank. They might request money, encourage you to click on malicious links, or share personal information. Always verify the authenticity of any requests before acting.
  2. Phishing Attacks: Scammers may send messages or create fake websites mimicking the appearance of legitimate banking platforms, aiming to trick you into providing your personal and financial details. Be cautious of unsolicited messages asking for sensitive information.
  3. Fake Offers and Contests: Fraudsters often exploit social media platforms to advertise fake offers, giveaways, or contests. These scams may require you to provide personal details, share sensitive information, or pay fees. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

What scams are perpetrated on social media?

Fraud: Scammers may use social media to persuade their victims to get involved in fraudulent investment schemes, or they may use the platform to initiate romance scams, imposter scams, or fake charity campaigns, resulting in financial loss.

Identity Theft: Personal information shared on social media, such as full name, date of birth, or even location details, can be exploited by criminals to steal identities and commit fraud.

Account Takeover: Cybercriminals may hijack your social media accounts, gaining control over your personal information, contacts, and even banking details.

What should I avoid sharing?

  • Anything that could answer a security question: Street you grew up on, favorite pet, first car, place you got married, etc.
  • Real-time locations, or when you'll be on vacation
  • Making family members' names viewable by public users (e.g., "if you have a beautiful granddaughter, like this page and share her name!")
  • Re-sharing pages or posts from unreliable sources, as this legitimizes fake pages and accounts

What else does Wisconsin Bank & Trust, a division of HTLF Bank recommend I do to protect myself?

Make sure you have strong, unique passwords for each online account and do not provide these passwords to anyone. Be cautious when accepting friend requests and verify the profile you are interacting with IS the actual friend they say they are. Many fraudsters will steal profile pictures and pose as someone else!

Be mindful of what information you share on social media. It is important to avoid revealing sensitive details publicly, otherwise social engineers could use the information against you.

And finally, always place a call to the bank, family member, or friend - on a trusted number - to verify whether there is truly a problem if you get an unusual message, rather than engaging with a potential fraudster.

Social media is fun to use, but social engineers are master manipulators who want your data... and your money. Stay informed about social media scams – more information about this and similar scams can be found on the Fraud Prevention page.