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Social media is an ideal place to relax and find people who share your interests. Sites like Pinterest are great for keeping your recipes and projects organized. They're also a great way to keep up with the people in your life who you don't see every day.
Scammers have recognized these sites as ideal places to strike. A Better Business Bureau report from March 27, 2014 reveals that scammers have found a way to use Pinterest. They sell counterfeit products, push dubious work-from-home schemes, and fish for your personal information.
The scam works like this: you receive an e-mail that a friend has shared a "pin," which is what the site calls its scrapbook items. This link looks legitimate complete with a headline and a realistic photo. You open the e-mail and click the link, which directs you to a fake login site that looks like the Pinterest log in page. You log in with your user name and password, which are then stored in the scammer's database. They can use this information to commandeer your other social media accounts. Then, they can spread the scam to all your friends, providing the ideal environment for continued growth of the scam.
Worse yet, they can use the information you've stored on your social media profiles as part of a social engineering scheme. Efficient hackers can use the information in your profile to pretend to be you for financial transactions. Gaining control over your social media accounts is a first step toward identity theft.
It seems that the price of recreation is eternal vigilance. Even when in the parts of the Internet that seem devoted to relaxing and unwinding, you must always be on your guard against identity theft.
Here are some steps the Better Business Bureau recommends you take to avoid getting pinned in a social media scam:
Watch where you log in
Check the web address every time you log into social media sites. It should always be pinterest.com or twitter.com or the trusted web address of your intended social media destinations. If there's another word, or if there are a bunch of jumbled letters in there, it's a sure sign that someone is fishing for your password. Close the link immediately.
Also, practice good net hygiene. Log out of your social media accounts when you're not using them, and don't share your password with anyone. Keep your social media accounts separate and use different passwords for each. This will prevent scammers from accessing several accounts if one of them gets hacked.
See something, say something
Legitimate social media platforms hate scammers just as much as you do. They know that you'll only keep using their service if you trust it. You can use the "report this" link to let the administrators of the site know that something's amiss with the pin or page. They can investigate and close it down before it spreads further.
If you see a friend sharing something that seems out of character or suspicious, let them know. They may have been hacked without knowing it. Be a good friend and let them know so they can take steps to protect themselves.
Be security conscious
Choose complex passwords that include numbers, letters, and punctuation. Try to avoid using dictionary words. You can use names of streets, companies, or celebrities to get a password that's easier to remember but harder to crack.
You should change your password at least every six months. If you develop two or three strong passwords, you can rotate between them to make sure no one is sneaking into your account. If you suspect your account has been compromised, change your password immediately!
With a little bit of added security, you can continue to enjoy all the benefits of social media. So go ahead and share your wedding plans, your house remodel, or your arts and crafts. Just be careful what you share from others and pay attention to what you click on in you your email inbox. You never know who might be on the other side.