Scamming: Is Social Media Making it Worse?

The official definition of a scam is a dishonest scheme; fraud. When asked about what a scam was, sophomore communication studies major Regina Askew-Jones said, “When I initially think of the word scam, I think of people who deceive people for their money. I automatically think of a scammer.” This may be due to the influence of social media.

After viewing influencers like popular Instagram comedic character Joanne the Scammer, when I think of the word scam, a lot of things come to mind. One example might be the calls I get to my home phone saying I owe an outstanding balance on a credit card I don’t own. Another example is the pop-ups on a website or in an email saying, “Congratulations you won a $50 gift card” to whatever they think may interest me. However, there is a new platform in which scams are prevalent and leave people more vulnerable: social media.

Just think about it. People share, or often times overshare, parts of their lives, which could make a person more vulnerable to a scam specified to their interests and likes. According to Norton’s security website, the top three social media scams are hidden charges, phishing requests and hidden URLs. 

According to Norton, hidden charges are described as quizzes or games that require information that can occasionally lead to an unwanted paid subscription to a service. Phishing requests are enclosed links that may appear as eye-catching photos or posts that lead to a social media login page, at which a cybercriminal gains access to a person’s password information. The number one type of scam are hidden URLs, mostly seen on Twitter. These can be used to put malware in a person’s computer and receive their information, said to Norton security. 

“I think it is a lot easier for [scamming] to happen,” said freshman public relations major Arianna Gruppuso. “Social media does have an affect on it because it’s so easy for Instagram or Snapchat to just put up an ad and you instantly click on it because you like a shirt that girl had on or something.” 

Scams can also occur in even less obvious and technical ways, making it much harder to detect. 

A recent example was the Fyre Festival in April 2017. For those who do not know, Fyre Festival was supposed to be a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, to promote the new celebrity booking app, Fyre. The organizer of the event, Billy McFarland, pleaded guilty in March 2018 to wire fraud charges linked to the festival and several other charges from a separate ticket selling scam, according to NBC. The documentary on the failure of this festival on Netflix titled, “Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened,” showed how legitimate the festival looked on social media, despite the harsh reality that came to the attendees of the “festival.”   

It showed how it was promoted by celebrities on Instagram such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid along with rapper Ja Rule, as one of the investors of the festival. 

“Who can we really trust on the internet when it comes to these celebrities that advertise these kind of things, because we don’t know them personally,” said Askew-Jones. “But because they’re celebrities, we’re like ‘Well, if they’re doing it, why can’t we?’” 

 Due to the lack of structure behind social media, people need to be more cautious on the various platforms. The targets for scams are anyone with money in their pockets, so it is important to be aware of these things on social media. Doing your research on what is legitimate and what is not is very important, as well as making sure that too much of your information isn’t out there for the world to see, because, we truly don’t know who’s behind these screens. 

                                                                                                     Tatyanna Carman    

                                                                                        sophomore journalism major

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