Maybe you don’t love the idea of your parents and grandparents being on social media and constantly commenting on everything you post, but before you block them, you need to warn them about some potentially dangerous scams that are being carried out on various platforms.
Elderly people are a target for criminals for a variety of reasons — and with more and more older Americans now using social media, it’s become an easy way for scammers to get access to their information.
According to the AARP, “the most vulnerable are those 50+ for these social media online scams.’
So to help you protect your loved ones, here are a few of the most popular scams circulating on social media and tips to avoid them.
1. Coupon scam
The old coupon scam is back and causing some serious trouble.
Every year billions of fake coupons are posted online by criminals trying to trick you. And very often it works, because the coupons look real and the deals look great. The scammers will even use brands’ official logos, making it nearly impossible to tell that it’s fake if you don’t know what you’re looking for. But like so many other scams, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Here’s how this scam often works: First, share the deal with all your friends. Second, ‘like’ the page associated with the ‘deal.’ And third, fill out a survey with various questions and enter your email address so they can ‘send you your coupons.’
But by clicking the link to redeem the deal or discount, you could be exposing yourself to identity theft or end up with malware on your computer. And if you share the ‘great deal’ with your friends, it could put them at risk, too.
Below are some recent fake coupons that went viral:
- Publix: A fake coupon for Publix claimed you could receive $100 off your grocery bill of $120 or more.
- Kroger: A phony $250 Kroger gift card giveaway that claimed if you shared the gift card you would be entered to win a $250 Kroger gift card.
- Kohl’s: A 50% off coupon circulated around Thanksgiving saying if you shared the coupon you would receive 50% of your purchase.
How to avoid it
Before you click on any offer you see on Facebook or any other social media platform, take these steps:
- Check the retailer’s official Facebook page to see if the same coupon appears there. (An official page has a blue circle next to their brand name.)
- Check the retailer’s website to see if they are offering the same deal.
The Coupon Information Center, an industry group that fights coupon fraud, cautions consumers not to download Internet coupons from unknown sources, or sources you can’t confirm. On the group’s website, they give this advice: ‘If a friend e-mails you coupons, especially high-value or free product coupons, the coupons are most likely counterfeit.’
2. Facebook profile tracker scam
So many people would love to know who has been ‘Facebook stalking’ them (looking at their profile). And scammers know that offering this type of service is an easy way to get people to click on a malicious link.
But any time you see an offer like this, you can be sure it’s a scam — and in fact, it’s against Facebook’s policy.
According to Facebook, “If you come across an app that says it can show you who’s viewing your profile or posts, please report the app.”
How to avoid it
Never click on an offer that promises this type of service. If you do, it could expose your information to criminals or download malware onto your computer or other device.
Read more: Top 10 financial scams targeting seniors
3. Closed account phishing scam
Phishing is a way for criminals to carry out identity theft by using fake websites, emails and robocalls to try and steal your personal information — including passwords, banking info, Social Security number and other sensitive data.
With this scam, you get an email that appears to be from a social media site — like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram — claiming that you need to reactivate your account, because it’s been closed or canceled. In order to get your account reinstated, the email will provide you a link to click on or an attachment to download. Don’t do it!
Providing your information could not only give criminals access to that one account, but it also give them enough info to hack your other online accounts as well. If you download the attachment, it would most likely install malware onto your computer.
How to avoid it
If you think there could be a probably with your account, log in directly (NOT via the email) and contact the company’s customer support staff from there.