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Top 4 Ways Scammers Use Social Media to Rob You Blind

Don't Become the Next Victim

By early 2014, one in four people around the world will use social media. The figure is much higher in America, where 56 percent have at least one social media profile. When considering adult internet users in the United States, the number jumps to 72 percent.

Many of these users hope to connect with loved ones and beat the next Candy Crush level, but a significant number are scammers ready and waiting to rob you blind. Here are four major ways they'll try to do so.

1. Scammers Aren't Always Who They Seem

The average Facebook user doesn't actually know one in five of their Facebook friends. How many of your Facebook friends do you know and trust? If you're like the 54 percent accepting friend requests just to be polite, or the third of users simply hoping to seem more popular, your actions could be costly.

Scammers often create fake profiles to gain the trust of their victims. Facebook chat makes it easy to establish a connection with their target and even lure them into a face-to-face meeting. Once you step away from the computer, you're vulnerable to the theft of your money and possessions.

But don't think you're safe just because you're not meeting or chatting with social network friends. Lurking scammers can be just as dangerous. Think of everything you've shared on your profile page and news feed. They know your age, gender, occupation, email addresses, and interests. They have a range of photos of you too. This is more than enough to steal your identity. The problem is so widespread, you may want to consider investing in the best identity theft protection you can afford to keep your details safe.

2. Scammers Monitor Your Whereabouts

Image via Flickr by Dennis Skley

Eighty percent of social networkers are smart enough to make their accounts private, but that also means one in five broadcast their information to the world. As we can see though, having a private profile doesn't always mean your details are in the vault - this is partially because scammers posing as friends can monitor your activity.

So what do they see? They know when you're on vacation and when you're catching up with friends at a bar. Almost 80 percent of reformed thieves say other cyber-criminals are using this information to keep tabs on householders.

How do they know where to find your home? Perhaps you posted your address on your profile page or linked to the online ad when you purchased your home. And didn't you just post photos of your kids having fun in your front yard?

Social network users leave these kinds of clues all the time, so it's pretty easy for scammers to piece the puzzle together.

3. Scammers Hijack Accounts

Don't think that it won't happen to you; every day Facebook is notified of 600,000 hijacked log-ins. Once they've hijacked your account, the scammers are likely to add malware to your system.

"Hackers get malware on your machine and get tens if not hundreds of thousands of these machines under their control and then they rent them out to spammers and others," explained Dr. Kent Seamons, a computer science professor from Brigham Young University.

The best case scenario would see your account used to advertise products you don't endorse. The worst set of circumstances could see the scammers accessing your bank accounts and requesting money from your unsuspecting friends who believe you're in need.

4. Scammers Spread Malware

Scammers don't need to hijack your account to put malware on your system, though. You just need to click on the wrong link. Malware might be found in that new social game everyone's playing or in the quick quiz your friends have begged you to take.

One in five Facebook users have been exposed to this insidious software. Once it's on your system, it can monitor your activity and steal your personal details, including your financial records.

Make sure you always run a good antivirus program, which detects spyware and malware as well as viruses. Scammers are always looking for new ways to trick you, so make sure you update your software regularly.

There more to social media than simply being social. Enjoy its perks but have your wits about you to ensure you don't fall victim to a social networking scam.

More Stories By Calvin Sellers

Calvin Sellers is a mobile technology and social media writer from Tampa, FL. He has worked to create captivating content for clients in many niches. Follow him on Twitter @CalvintheScribe.