Your personal information is invaluable to criminals. Protect yourself from scams by keeping your personal information safe.
How does it work?
Even if your social media accounts are configured as “private” and are well protected, or if you are careful and don’t share a lot of information (photos, videos, status updates, etc.), scammers will use various techniques to trick you into handing over personal information (name, email, password, credit card number, etc.), which can then be used to steal your identity.
Your personal information can help scammers to:
- make unauthorised purchases with your credit card or set up new bank accounts or telephone contracts;
- take out loans;
- sell your personal information to other scammers;
- engage in illegal activities while using your name.
Cyber attacks and the various methods of personal information theft
Many attacks follow a similar pattern. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Twishing (a combination of the words Twitter and phishing) requires sending a message to a Twitter user and directing them to another website. If the user visits the fake website, the attacker obtains their account information (ID and password).
- “Who has viewed your social media profile or page?” This service asks for access to your profile and leads you to a fake survey, where it prompts you to share your personal information. The scammer earns a commission each time someone takes part in the survey. You will never find out who has viewed your profile.
- “Are you in this video?” When you click on the video an opinion survey is launched, allowing the scammer to make money. You could also end up infecting your device with malware.
- “Your account has been cancelled”, “Please confirm your email account”. These scams are designed to get you to disclose your private information and account credentials.
- Fake vouchers and offers from famous luxury brands and sites. These scams trick you into revealing personal information or signing up for expensive services. They are a bit different each month and always look too good to be true: the service or product you have requested will never arrive.
- “A miracle product – Free trial!” This scam uses free trial offers and fake surveys to trick you into paying for products and subscriptions that you have unwittingly signed up for (e.g. recurring shipping costs).
- “Earn loads of money while working from home”. Any job that requires a start-up payment is most probably fraudulent. These job ads can be found on social media and involve the purchase of a kit that will help you earn thousands of euro. You might be asked to provide lots of personal details, including the tax code and copies of your passport or driving license. Some job offers may be a cover for illegal money laundering activities: they ask you to receive a payment to your bank account and then transfer it to a foreign company, in exchange for a fee. So you become a “money mule” for criminals – but money laundering is a crime.
- “Help, I'm in trouble!” A scammer pretends to be a relative in urgent need of money and sends you a message on social media. The person appears to be in distress and asks you to send money. Telephone, email and text messages can also be used as contact channels.
What to do
- If you want to check the information on a social media profile, go directly to the website – don’t rely on a third-party link to reach it.
- Be careful about the personal information and images you share on social media: fraudsters can use them to create a false identity or try to scam you.
- Check the privacy and security settings of your social media accounts. Take the time to figure out exactly what your profile shows about you to the general public.
- Do some online searches. Search the product name or job offer that you are interested in to see what other people say. You can also use keywords such as “review”, “complaint” or “scam”.
- Report any possible scammer profiles to the social media platform. If the scammers follow you or are in your contacts, be sure to block them and stop any interaction.
- Check your credit and debit cards frequently. If you’ve been charged for something you haven’t ordered, contact your bank or card provider.