Scams and Schemes on Social Media

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The advantages of social media are plentiful; they allow us to connect with old and new friends, share photographs and videos, learn about and discuss current events and bring awareness to and promote events, among many others. Unfortunately, there are also many risks involved. The Internet provides anonymity, which attracts scam artists and their creative schemes that are often targeted to college students. When using social media for all of its wonderful benefits, be aware of potential scams. To help you out, we have listed a few common scams so you know when and how to avoid falling victim to them.

Stranded & Need Money Scams

Scammers will hack the accounts of your friends and family members to send you a private message saying they are stranded in a foreign country and need money to return home. Of course you’ll want to help a friend in need, but you could also lose a lot of money if it is a scam. Scam artists using this scheme will typically ask for Western Union or wire transfers and convey a strong sense of urgency. After all, they need the money now if they are to return home. Before you call your credit union or financial institution to send money, take some time to get more information, and try to contact the friend or family member that is supposedly messaging you. This will help you better determine if the message is a scam or not.

Card Cracking Scams

With your busy school schedules, there isn’t always time to commit to a job. Which means, money can be tight during the school year. Scam artists also know this, and have created fast money schemes. Essentially, victims are recruited to facilitate some form of fraud against a credit union or other financial institution. Of course, the scam artist never phrases it that way. It could be that a check is deposited into your account and you get to keep a portion of the funds as payment, or you perform some task and provide your account number for the payment. The scammers want your account information (account number, debit card number) and have various scenarios to get them. How to avoid them: don’t provide your sensitive account information through social media. The consequences for these scams can be devastating, ranging from fraud charges against you to a significant loss of money.

Post & Win Scams

Typically, these types of scams catch your attention by offering a free prize for sharing, posting or tweeting something. For example, posts telling you to “share this status, and win a free iPad!” might possibly be from a company is running a legitimate contest; if you share a picture of yourself at one of their stores, you could win a free gift card, or something similar. Because some are real and some are scams, you’ll want to research before posting anything on your social media account. If the contest is a scam, posting something on your account could provide the scammers with any personal information that is tied to your social media account while also putting your friends and their information at risk.

While these are a few of the possible scams that you may encounter, we hope that you can use these examples to search for red flags elsewhere and also know when to report possible scams that you see to the website’s administrator. Social media is an effective tool for many purposes, but scammers know that, too. Be aware of the possible risks, and use that knowledge to make the best judgments while using social media.


Deidre Davis is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at MSU Federal Credit Union. MSUFCU’s headquarters are at 3777 West Road East Lansing, MI 48823. Contact Deidre at or (517) 664-7877.


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