Tips to protect against social media scams

Scammers employ various methods to trick individuals into providing their six-digit verification codes.

WE have received a lot of reports of Zimbabweans having their social media accounts hacked. WhatsApp being the number one scammers' choice.

One does not need to be a genius to be a scammer nowadays. Scammers come from various backgrounds and do not require exceptional intelligence to carry out their fraudulent activities. They often rely on exploiting human vulnerabilities, employing psychological manipulation, and taking advantage of people's trust or lack of awareness.

It is important for individuals to be aware of common scams, educate themselves about potential risks, and remain vigilant when interacting online or receiving unsolicited communication.

By staying informed and adopting good security practices, individuals can better protect themselves from falling victim to scams and other fraudulent activities.  Please do not share your six digit code with anyone. You will be hacked. WhatsApp, Google, X and Facebook users are being warned of a scam, which sees criminals posing as family and friends to request a security code.

Scammers employ various methods to trick individuals into providing their six-digit verification codes.

Here are a few common techniques that scammers use:

 Free airtime alert: Beware of scam WhatsApp and SMS messages claiming free airtime from mobile service providers.

 Impersonation: Scammers may pose as representatives of legitimate organisations or services, such as banks, social media platforms, or online marketplaces. They might contact you through phone calls, text messages, or emails, claiming that there is an urgent issue with your account and that you need to provide the verification code to resolve the problem.

 Fake websites or apps: Scammers create fraudulent websites or apps that resemble the legitimate platforms you use. They may prompt you to enter your phone number or email address, followed by a request to provide the six-digit verification code that they claim was sent to you. In reality, the code is being sent directly to the scammer.

 Phishing attacks: Scammers send deceptive emails or messages that appear to be from trusted sources. These messages may contain a link that directs you to a fake login page. When you enter your credentials, including your phone number, the scammer can intercept the verification code and use it to gain unauthorised access to your accounts.

 Social engineering: Scammers may use social engineering techniques to manipulate and deceive individuals. They might present a convincing story or create a sense of urgency, persuading you to share your verification code under the pretence of a financial reward, a prize, or the need to protect your account from a threat.

 SIM card swapping: In some cases, scammers target mobile phone users by attempting to convince the phone carrier to transfer your phone number to a SIM card under their control. Once they have control of your number, they can intercept the verification code sent via text message.

To protect yourself from WhatsApp, Facebook, and Google scams, here are some important steps you can take:

 Be cautious of suspicious messages: Exercise caution when you receive messages, emails, or notifications asking for personal information or financial details. Scammers often use these platforms to impersonate trusted entities and trick users into revealing sensitive data.

 Verify the source: Before clicking on any links or providing any personal information, verify the authenticity of the source. Check the sender's email address or contact details, look for official verification badges or indicators, and compare the message or request with previous communication from the same entity.

 Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Enable 2FA wherever possible, as it adds an extra layer of security to your accounts. This way, even if scammers obtain your login credentials, they would still need a second authentication factor (such as a code sent to your phone) to gain access.

 Keep your software up to date: Regularly update your operating system, web browsers, and applications to ensure you have the latest security patches. Scammers often exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software to gain unauthorised access to your devices or accounts.

 Be cautious with links and downloads: Avoid clicking on suspicious links, especially those received from unknown sources. Be cautious when downloading files or attachments, as they may contain malware or viruses that can compromise your device's security.

 Use strong, unique passwords: Create strong, complex passwords for your accounts and avoid reusing them across multiple platforms. Consider using a password manager to securely store and generate unique passwords for each account.

 Be mindful of privacy settings: Review and adjust the privacy settings of your social media accounts to limit the information visible to others. Restrict access to personal details and be cautious about sharing sensitive information publicly.

 Educate yourself about common scams: Stay informed about the latest scam techniques used on these platforms. Familiarise yourself with common red flags, such as unsolicited requests for money or personal information, and be sceptical of offers that seem too good to be true.

 Report suspicious activity: If you encounter a scam or believe you have been targeted, report it to the respective platform's support or security team. This helps them take appropriate action and protect other users from falling victim to the same scam.

 Trust your instincts: If something feels off or suspicious, trust your instincts and proceed with caution. If you're unsure about the legitimacy of a message or request, seek guidance from trusted sources or contact the official support channels of the respective platform.

WhatsApp has warned its users about this scam and has advised them to be wary of any unusual messages or requests made through the app.

Scamming can be a lucrative criminal enterprise, and unfortunately, there are individuals who engage in such activities without considering the ethical or legal implications. They may use pre-existing scam templates, take advantage of readily available technology, or adapt their methods based on their target audience.

Remember, staying vigilant and being cautious online are essential for protecting yourself from scams on WhatsApp, Facebook, and Google.

  • Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments(Pvt) Ltd. He is the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers.


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