A growing number of Albertans are falling victim to social media fraud, according to the Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay (BBB).
The BBB said a number of consumers and businesses recently reported they had been hacked.
Calgarian Shawn Barrie was one of them. He told Global News it all started after he was contacted on Instagram by someone posing as an acquaintance.
The person simply asked, “Hey wassup,” before asking him for help setting up another social media account. Barrie said he was sent a link that he was to copy and send back.
Barrie obliged and said the response was immediate.
“All of a sudden, my email is going berserk,” he said, “saying my Instagram account has had a new login from Nigeria.
“My Instagram account name has changed. My email that had been on my account had been changed. My cell number that had been on my account had been changed, and they put on a two-factor verification.”
Barrie said he was completely shut out of his account. But, he added, it didn’t end there. The hackers then started using his content, including personal photos, on another site to promote a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme.
They also reached out to several people on his contact list using the same modus operandi.
Those who knew him quickly alerted him.
“They know I’ve never used that phrase in my life: ‘Wassup,'” he said, “so they knew something ‘wassup!'”
Barrie said he put out a warning for his other contacts on the social media sites he did still have control of. He also reported the fraud to Instagram but added it took almost a week to get the site to shut it down.
By then, he said, some of his contacts had bought into the scam.
“There were at least three or four of my contacts that fell victim to it. All the people were thinking it was from me, and as a result, they lost access to their accounts as well.”
The BBB told Global News as more and more people use social media, the more comfortable we’re becoming with it.
“Our guard is down. Those (messages) are coming in and our guard is down,” the BBB’s Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen said.
She added while it may seem like just an inconvenience at first, it can quickly become much more sinister.
“You don’t really know where your data has gone,” she said, “and we live on a lot of those social media apps. Our pictures are there. Our personal information is there. Our families are there.
“Your protection has been compromised in one way or another. Whether it causes some impact today or whether there is potential for impact down the road, the fact is you’re compromised.”
The BBB is advising online users to take the following steps to protect themselves from being hacked on social media:
- Be cautious with your personal information. Never give out personal information, such as your full name, telephone number, address, etc. to a person or business you don’t know or trust.
- Don’t friend people you don’t know. Be extra cautious of what you click on from “friends” you don’t recognize. Messages that are brief or come from people you don’t expect to hear from might be scams that include links to malicious sites.
- Protect your password. Use different passwords for each social media/email account and avoid including your name or common words. Never share your password with anyone.
- Use extra security features. Turn on two-factor authentication or set up a security code.
- Log out of Facebook. When using a computer you share with other people, log out.
- Understand your privacy settings. Familiarize yourself with your privacy settings and revisit them frequently. As Facebook adds new features, it makes decisions about settings that you may or may not like.
- Third-party apps. Never allow a third-party app to gain access to your personal information. These apps will have rights to post anything on your behalf, which could get dangerous.
Barrie has upped his security features on all of his social media accounts. He didn’t lose any money but said he did lose a lot of time getting this whole mess sorted.
He also said he lost something else: “Lost reputation, lost connections.”