(WXYZ) - Social media makes keeping up with friends easy, but it can also make you a target.
Part of an old fashion social and auction put together by Kristi Bowers to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research. But she also raises money and awareness the modern way, through social media.
"Some of our best support can be raised through the internet or social media," Bowers says. Still, Bowers knows friends on social media can become foes. It’s a place where scammers, spammers and hackers lurk every day.
"I had someone share a picture and they said click on this picture and it looked legitimate, like it was somebody trying to share something with me," Bowers says.
It wasn't long before Bowers found out the friend who supposedly sent her the picture had been hacked, and it linked to a crippling virus.
"And to think, you're one step away from crashing your computer. I know I keep a lot of documents and all my family photos and all those things on the computer and you get a virus and a lot of times those things can't be recovered," Bowers says. “They’re looking to set you up. ”
Tim Stadler was a long time cyber crime detective, and now specializes in cyber security. He hears stories from victims of social media scammers and hackers all the time.
"They can be devastating to their personal life, as far as their identity being stolen to their home computer, to their work computer and their employer's work computers," Stadler says.
Experts point to five top social media scenarios that can lead to scams, usually through an infected link or a hacked account.
These 5 scenarios are just the beginning.
"Over half of all tweets and texts are actually spam or malware virus type links," Stadler says.
To protect yourself, Stadler says never click on a link unless you absolutely trust who sent it to you. Instead of using the link, to see photos, for example, go directly to the original host site. If you're suspicious of a link, Stadler says Google it, which will usually tell you if it's a hoax.
More recommendations include double checking your privacy settings on Facebook, as they may change as the format changes. You may want to cut some of your Facebook friends loose.
"If you have more than 80 friends, you've got people you don't even know as a friend. And those are the scammers, those are the spammers,” Stadler says.
It's all advice that Bowers has learned to take seriously when it comes to social media.
"I just think we need to be more cautious about the time we're spending, and what were clicking on, and just because it's from one or our quote, unquote "friends" on Facebook, doesn't mean it's safe," Bowers says.
In other words, be social and smart.
Stadler also recommends a website called malwarecity.com. It’s up to the minute on the latest cyber scams.
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