In the social media world, a little blue checkmark next to a username is a sought-after status symbol. Celebrities, global brands, famous pets, and public figures alike have verified Instagram accounts, indicating to fans that the account they are following is “verified” as the real deal. With an established social presence and verified status, these accounts gain additional visibility, influence, and the opportunity to connect with their fans and customer base. Due to the blue checkmark’s highly coveted nature, cybercriminals have entered the social media realm with fake accounts trying to take advantage of up-and-coming influencers, swindling users out of hundreds of dollars.
A seemingly innocent reflection of an influencer’s status can actually lead to big-time problems for others. Con artists have latched on to social media rising stars’ hopes to be verified by contacting them with the promise of getting the coveted blue checkmark — if only for a small fee. However, it is not possible for any user to pay to be verified. While it might take some time to build up a following, anyone promising an end result for money is most likely just looking to make a quick buck. Unfortunately, the scams don’t stop there either.
At the beginning of 2019, it was reported that someone was impersonating Wendi Deng Murdoch, former wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. This account was emailing yet-to-be verified, popular social media figures with the assurance of high-profile job opportunities. They specifically targeted a travel photographer with over 60,000 followers on Instagram under the guise of working for Condé Nast Traveler. They offered her a photography assignment in Jakarta, Indonesia. She was asked to pay for everything upfront — flights, permits, hotels, and more — all with the agreement of being reimbursed at a later date. Things began to unravel once she landed in Indonesia and was given the runaround. She spent thousands of dollars to get ahead in her career and establish herself as a credible travel photographer only to be left in a lurch. This story serves as a cautionary tale to all of those wanting to be verified on social media platforms and those preparing for the summer travel season.
Cybercriminals are always looking for the next avenue to take advantage of unsuspecting victims, today it is social media influencers, tomorrow who knows what it could be. However, there’s one thing we know for sure – any social media platform that has a significant number of users is going to draw interest from these crooks. But, if you take proper security precautions, you can avoid falling into a trap and scroll endlessly with confidence. Use these tips to help protect your online identity:
- Set your account to private. Only let people you know follow you and vice versa.
- Be suspicious of messages from strangers. Avoid clicking on links sent by someone you don’t know personally.
- Report any spam posts, questionable messages, or fake profiles. Then the social media platform can stop the threat from spreading to other accounts.
- Implement proper security measures across all platforms. If one of your social accounts becomes compromised by a scam, take the necessary security steps to protect any linked personal or financial information. Consider McAfee Total Protection or McAfee Mobile Security for help in securing your accounts.