How to protect yourself from social media scams - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How to protect yourself from social media scams

Burlington, Vermont - January 19, 2011

Americans lose up to $30 billion a year to internet fraud. And scam artists are exploiting more and more victims on highly popular social media sites like Facebook.

"I'm not surprised by it one bit," said Zack Luby of Good Stuff Communications. "With the growth of advertising that is happening on social sites, it's not surprising that it would be attracting the more nefarious advertisers that are out to scam people."

Social media experts like Luby say one of the most common scams involves fraudulent advertising; offering anything from work-at-home jobs to free trials. It's called "click-jacking" on Facebook; where users are convinced to click on malicious links and recommendations.

"There's dollars there, and there's people there, and that attracts the seedier elements of society just like it does in real life," Luby explained.

"It's very common that these third-party promotions that end up in these sort of recurring bills," said Jason Duquette-Hoffman of the Vermont Consumer Assistance Program.

Due to what many called another potential privacy misstep, just Monday Facebook announced it has temporarily suspended third-party access to users' sensitive information like phone numbers and addresses. With 650 million Facebook subscribers generating an estimated $1.86 billion in advertising revenue, experts say online scams are inevitable. But there are ways to protect yourself.

"People are constantly upset about the settings because they are very challenging to navigate and there's a ton of different privacy settings you can have," Luby said.

Updating your Facebook privacy settings regularly can ensure that you're not putting any unwanted information for scam artists to take advantage of. Here in Vermont, you should also contact the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program if you feel you've been scammed.

"We'd be happy to try and answer any questions you may have, or give you some information you can use to figure out if it's a transaction you want to proceed with," Duquette-Hoffman said. "Or you can fill out an online complaint form which captures all the information we'll need to file a complaint on your behalf."

And a little common sense goes a long way.

"There's this sense that because of the enormity and the anonymity that it's possible that something like that could happen. The true nature of it is that's not true. It's just like real life. If it seems too good to be true, it is," Luby warned.

More tips on how to protect yourself from internet scams -- www.goodstuffcommunications.com/identityprotection

Consumer Assistance Program -- www.uvm.edu/consumer/

Federal Bureau of Consumer Protection -- www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm

Melinda Davenport - WCAX News

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