Social media is leaving you vulnerable to scammers

Social media leaves us vulnerable

Social media is our weakest link when it comes to security. We may take safety measures against scammers and criminals in the real world, but a new study has revealed that we're leaving ourselves wide open to hackers and fraudsters as soon as we go online.

SEE ALSO: NatWest reveal most common scams

See also: Scamwatch: Google Maps fraud

See also: O2 and Vodafone customers hit by scammers

Electronic commerce retailer, found that we fail to take even the simplest of precautions. Most of us (52%), for example, don't even read the terms and conditions when we sign up to a new social media app, so we have no idea how many of our private details and communications are being shared with others. In fact, 44% of people admitted they didn't realise social media platforms have the right to distribute and share the things they post, potentially for advertising purposes.

We fail to take sensible precautions when it comes to privacy settings too. While 78% of Facebook users have heeded warnings about privacy, only 14% of Brits use privacy settings on Snapchat, and a horrifying one in ten Brits have no privacy settings on their social media accounts.

Even more alarmingly, 89% of people admit they let up to four other people know their social media account passwords - and one in ten let up to ten people know. As soon as your password is shared, nothing you do on social media can be considered private any more.

What makes matters worse is that we're willing to share all sorts of alarming things with anyone who happens to take a look. Over a third of Brits admitted they have their name, age, where they work, live, pictures, friends and their relationship status freely accessible on social media.


It seems baffling that we're prepared to do the equivalent of stopping strangers in the street and showing them picture of our home and workplace, and details of when we are on holiday. spoke to Dr. Hatana El-Jerd, a lecturer in Digital and Social Media at Leeds Trinity University, who said social media over-sharing was the result of a combination of things - from culture and environment, to personality.

She added that part of the problem is the way that everyone we link to on social media may be classed in the same way by the platform (unless we create specific groups). She says: "In the real world, people might disclose intimate information to someone they perceive as a close friend, while keeping to general formalities with a colleague from work, essentially categorising friends on perceived intimacy. However, with social media platforms such as Facebook – anyone we add is categorised as a 'friend' and sees all of the personal and intimate information posted. Perceiving this social media space with 'friends' as 'safe' is what ultimately impacts how much information people are willing to disclose."

She also adds that sometimes we find it easier to type information into a status bar than having a conversation face-to-face, so we may be more open as a result.

Why this is so worrying?

Shockingly, 11% of all people did not think strangers could find out any information at all, including their name, about them on social media. Dr El-Jerd, said: "Many users are oblivious to how many people can access information they post. When a user's network is not private, people they do not know are able to see what they are doing, for example, what public posts they've liked, events they have attended and places they have checked into."

If we have not used privacy settings, then we need to be aware that strangers can find out where we live and discover when we are away from home. They can also access all sorts of personal information from the names of pets to our birthday, and even the suppliers we use from our bank to utilities.

eBuyer has produced a handy guide to what different social media sites can reveal about us, and it's worth getting to grips with the risks.

It's also essential to keep our status private. Even then, we need to read the terms and conditions of any social media app we use, so we know what information we are sharing, and who with.

Finally, it's worth thinking carefully about our 'friends'. People we know well in real life may well be safe to share details of our lives with, but what about ex-colleagues, people we met at a party, or people we've never met who happen to be friends with other people we know on social media?

If in doubt, it pays to err on the side of caution. Consider whether you would share these things with these people in real life, and if not, then don't do so online.

Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.

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