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How to protect you & your business from social media scammers

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With the staggering global rise of social media scams, business executives increasingly become targets for cybercriminals aiming to exploit their personal and professional lives. WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram serve as prime platforms for scammers to ensnare victims in their web of deception.

In recent years, social media scams have witnessed an alarming surge, both in South Africa and around the world, as cybercriminals exploit the widespread use of social media platforms to carry out their illicit activities. While common forms of social media scams involve phishing, fake profiles, and financial fraud, a more targeted and insidious threat looms over high-level business executives.


Cybercriminals have adapted their strategies to focus on executives and high-level managers. Their primary goal is to obtain private photos or sensitive information that can be used for extortion and harassment. The modus operandi involves identifying key targets on social media, following them, hacking their accounts to access compromising content, and subsequently launching a targeted harassment campaign with the aim of extracting a ransom.

The Psychology Behind the Scam

The psychology employed by these scammers is manipulative and coercive. They employ tactics that place their victims under immense pressure, using relentless calls and threats to exploit the natural human response to fear. By leveraging the victim’s anxiety and apprehension, they aim to create a heightened state of emotional distress. This strategy is designed to keep the victim off balance, making them more susceptible to the scammer’s demands. Threats to expose personal information to colleagues and clients intensify this anxiety, further increasing the victim’s vulnerability. In essence, these scammers seek to control their target’s emotions, using fear as a potent weapon to achieve their malicious goals.

How to Spot a Fake Account

Scammers take the time to research and plan their attacks, seeking high-profile executives or individuals in senior positions whose careers and reputations could be damaged by the release of personal photographs or information.

Recognizing the signs of a fake social media account is crucial to protect yourself from scammers, as this is their point of entry where they initiate their attack.

Here are top tips to help identify fake profiles:

1. Friend Requests and Followers: Be cautious of sudden friend requests or followers from unfamiliar accounts, even if they follow someone you know. Do not accept their requests blindly, as scammers use these tactics to gain access to your network.

2. Profile: Thoroughly check the profile information. Fake accounts often have incomplete or inconsistent details. Look for discrepancies in names, locations, and job titles.

3. Profile Picture: Examine the profile picture closely. Fake accounts frequently use stock photos or stolen images from the internet. Conduct a reverse image search if you suspect foul play.

4. Activity and Engagement: Fake accounts typically have minimal activity and engagement. Be wary of profiles with a limited number of posts, followers, or connections.

5. Content Quality: Assess the quality of content shared by the account. Fake profiles often post generic or low-quality content. Look for unusual or inconsistent language use.

By Dean Vorster, Chief Technology Officer at Zinia

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