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With the rise of social media scams globally, business executives are increasingly becoming targets of cybercriminals aiming to exploit their personal and professional lives. WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram have emerged as prime platforms for scammers seeking to lure victims into their web of deception, warns Dean Vorster, chief technology officer at Zinia, a leading IT technology group specialising in corporate sector services.
Social media scams have seen an alarming surge in recent years, with cybercriminals exploiting the widespread use of social platforms to perpetrate their illicit activities. While common scams involve phishing, fake profiles, and financial fraud, high-level business executives face a more targeted threat.
Vorster explains, “Cybercriminals have adapted their strategies to focus on executives and high-level managers. Their objective is to obtain private photos or sensitive information for extortion and harassment, employing tactics that leverage fear and coercion to manipulate their victims.”
The scammers employ psychological tactics that create immense pressure on their victims, utilising relentless calls and threats to exploit natural human responses to fear. By leveraging anxiety and apprehension, they aim to create a heightened state of emotional distress, making the victim more susceptible to their demands.
Threats to expose personal information intensify this anxiety, increasing the victim’s vulnerability and making fear a potent weapon for the scammers.
How to spot a fake account
Vorster emphasises the importance of recognizing the signs of a fake social media account to protect oneself from scammers. Here are his top tips:
- Friend requests and followers: Be cautious of sudden friend requests or followers from unfamiliar accounts, even if they claim to be connected to someone you know. Scammers use these tactics to gain access to your network.
- Profile: Thoroughly check the profile information for inconsistencies. Fake accounts often have incomplete or inconsistent details.
- Picture: Examine the profile picture closely. Fake accounts frequently use stock photos or stolen images from the internet. Conduct a reverse image search if you suspect foul play.
- Activity and engagement: Fake accounts typically have minimal activity and engagement. Be wary of profiles with a limited number of posts, followers, or connections.
- Content quality: Assess the quality of content shared by the account. Fake profiles often post generic or low-quality content. Look for unusual or inconsistent language use.
Securing your social media accounts
Vorster advises proactive measures to secure social media presence:
- Be discerning: Avoid sharing sensitive information online, including location, check-ins, and personal opinions, which can be used to build a targeted attack.
- Enable backup codes: Use “backup codes” for social media accounts and store them securely to regain access if compromised.
- Implement two-factor authentication: Use authentication apps like Google Authenticator for an extra layer of security requiring a unique code for every login attempt.
- Strengthen passwords: Create complex passwords using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid easily guessable information like birthdates.
- Regularly check login activity: Review login activity periodically, looking for unusual devices or locations indicating unauthorised access.
- Privacy settings: Keep personal accounts private and consider separating personal and professional profiles for added security, especially when managing business accounts.