Social media scams

Social media allows fraudsters to pretend to be your family or a friend in need of help. It could be a random message or one from somebody you know whose account may have been hacked.

Both are the start of a scam to steal your money.

We reveal the methods behind these scams so you can stay safe.

  • Hacked account

    It’s possible for a fraudster to hack into someone else’s social media account and to then target their contacts. You can’t rely on a social media company to close or block hacked accounts. But you can use our guidance to learn how to avoid this kind of scam. 

    This is an image of a hacked account scam message.

    Fraudsters pretend to be family or a friend

    Once they hack a social media profile, like Instagram, fraudsters can copy a person’s style to send a message that at first seems genuine. If the person asks for money to help with a problem, it could be a sign of a scam. Talk with the person to check they’re okay.      

    Did you expect to get a message?

    Any of your contacts can get in touch at any time. But would they message out of the blue to ask you for money? Fraudsters will ask you to help with an urgent problem as you’re more likely to help someone in need and won’t have time to think.

    Do they need you to act right away?

    Fraudsters can use all sorts of problems to try to convince you to do something immediately. Be suspicious if a message wants you to send money to an account you’ve never paid before, or to follow a link.

    Will they talk on the phone?

    Fraudsters will use any excuse to avoid a call, as they’re pretending to be someone else. If you try the number from a message they won’t answer or the line will be unclear. Always talk with your family or friend on a trusted number first.

    Do they want money?

    If someone sends you a message to ask you to send money to an account you’ve never paid before, it’s a scam. Delete the message. If you reply, it gives a fraudster more of a chance to trick you by pretending to be someone you know. Check everything is okay with your family or friend by talking with them on a number you trust.

    If you think a friend or family member’s account has been hacked, call them right away.

    Report any suspicious messages on the app or social media site where they appear.

Random attack

Your phone number or social media profile name is all a fraudster needs to target you with a random message. 

This is an image of a random attack scam message.

Fraudsters pretend to be family or a friend

Would you reply to a message that says ‘Hi’ if it came from an unknown number on a text or WhatsApp, or a profile on social media? Fraudsters won’t have any details to start with and will want you to fill in the blanks. If you reply with any personal details, it will help them win your trust.

Did you expect to get a message?

If you get an unexpected message from someone who claims to know you, check it’s really them before you save a new number. Call a number you trust to talk with the person. Fraudsters will often ask for help with things like paying a bill, as they know it could play with your emotions and you may do as they want.

Do they know your name?

Because this is a random attack, fraudsters won’t know anything about you. The only details they can get, like a name or location, are ones you give them in a reply. Never reply to an unknown message as it could be a fraudster fishing for details. Just delete it.

Will they talk on the phone?

Fraudsters will use any excuse to avoid a call, as they’re pretending to be someone else. If you try the number from a message, they won’t answer or the line will be unclear. Always talk with your family or friend on a trusted number first.

Do they want money?

If someone sends you a message to ask you to send money to an account you’ve never paid before, it’s a scam. Delete the message. If you reply, it gives a fraudster more of a chance to trick you by pretending to be someone you know. Check everything is okay with your family or friend by talking with them on a number you trust.

Report any suspicious text to your provider for free on 7726 then delete it.

On WhatsApp, press and hold on the message bubble, select ‘Report’ then follow the instructions.

Real life example of a social media scam message

This message was shared by the police to warn others about this kind of scam.

The first incoming message began:

Hello mum, I lost my phone a hour ago, still searching but can’t find it, I’m using my old phone now. You can save this number.

The woman replied: 
Hope you find it Soph, number saved xxx

The fraudster messaged back: 
Thank you xxx

No luck yet xxx 
replied the woman.

The fraudster messaged: 
No still searching x Are you busy right now? Because I want to ask you for a favor, I’m trying to get my banking app on this old phone but it doesn’t work, and now I’m stressing a bit because I have to pay a bill x

The woman answered: 
Ok Soph anything x

Give me the details Soph x

Then the fraudster sent: 
I’ve just made a online bank account so I can make online payments. Should I send you the details?

This real-life example of a WhatsApp message has a few tell-tale signs that prove it's a scam.

  1. General greeting that claims to be from a family member.
  2. A reason that explains the new number.
  3. They ask for money to help with a problem.
  4. They won’t speak on the phone.

By using her daughter’s name, the woman made it easier for the fraudsters to chat. When she asked to talk, they refused because the old phone ‘can’t ring’.

Never reply to a message like this. Always talk with the person before you do anything else.

Protect your family and friends: tell them about this scam.

Other scams fraudsters use to trick you

Find out how fraudsters can steal your money on a phone call, through a dating profile or when you buy online.

Scam calls

Find out how fraudsters can use your details to win your trust.

Avoid scam calls

Dating scams

Learn how fraudsters with fake profiles just want your money.

How to date online safely

Buying online scams

Fraudsters sell fake items online or ones that don’t exist.

Buy online safely

Learn about the latest scams

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to try to steal your details and money. Discover which scams are common right now.

Go to latest scams

Have you been targeted by fraudsters?

Contact us right away if you think you've been scammed. We can then guide you on what to do next.

Contact us now

Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud

Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud