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Top 5 social media scams to avoid

Scammers have been worming their way into giant social media networks to trick people into giving over their personal and financial information.

Over the past year, the number of phishing attempts on social media networks like Facebook ( FB ) , Twitter ( TWTR ) , Instagram and LinkedIn ( LNKD ) has exploded 150%, experts at security firm Proofpoint ( PFPT ) say.

That’s because fraudsters can use social media to target hundreds of thousands of people at once, but also blend in with the crowd. They mimic users and their activities, and they take advantage of the way people use social media to deal with business problems.

Here are five of the most cleverly cloaked scams on social media right now, according to Proofpoint:

1. Fake customer service accounts on Twitter

Online criminals set up fake customer service accounts to phish for bank login and password information and other sensitive data. These imposter accounts look very similar to that of real businesses, but are often one character off — or they include an extra underscore or other keyboard character.

When someone tweets at their bank or example, scam artists will intercept the conversation, and reply to that message with what seems like an authentic answer.

A popular news story or social media post might generate a lot of comments. Fraudsters like to take advantage of that large audience by adding their own comments with links to other buzzy headlines that lead to credit card phishing scams.

3. Fake live-stream videos

As more media companies start streaming their shows and movies online, scammers are jumping on the bandwagon.

They do things like comment on the Facebook page of a sports team with a link that leads people to believe they can watch a free live stream of a game. But the links lead to a fake website that asks for personal information in order to start the video, which very often doesn’t exist.

4. Fake online discounts

Fake online discounts work similarly to fake customer service accounts. Schemers will set up social media accounts that look like legit businesses, then pretend to offer a real promotion. In reality, they want to trick people into giving up their personal information.

5. Fake online surveys and contests

These tactics have been around for years and are designed to get answers to personal questions that fraudsters can mine and sell later. But criminals embed them into social media posts that often look legit because there’s a normal looking profile picture and link, thanks to URL shorteners.

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Surveys for Money: Here’s What We Earned

If you’re thinking of taking surveys for money, consider our experience: Three of us spent more than 50 total hours answering questions on these sites, and our combined earnings didn’t break $90.

So, no, online surveys weren’t an efficient way for us to make money.

The lowdown on taking surveys for money

That said, some sites paid more than others, and survey taking was an easy side gig to try. The 12 sites we tested were free and required no education or skill. Depending on the website, surveys can be a simple — albeit dull — way to earn a few bucks or a frustrating chore that pays next to nothing.

We appreciated sites that disclosed the cash value for each survey and matched us with relevant ones. We dreaded sites that compensated us through a confusing points system and sent us surveys we rarely qualified for.

Note that your demographics and other characteristics largely determine whether or not you qualify for a survey. All three of us are single women in our 20s who live in urban areas. Depending on the survey, we may or may not have been the ideal participants. Your profile may lead to results that are different from ours.

Our review of 12 paid survey sites

Below are our findings from attempting to spend an hour a day for five days on each site. On some days for several sites, there weren’t enough surveys to fill up the hour. (We didn’t count that time toward our total review hours.) We’ve listed the sites in order of the most popular based on Google searches.

Swagbucks. This site offers a lot of opportunities for surveys, but disqualifications are frequent. Sometimes we got disqualified just from clicking on a link to a survey. Swagbucks aggregates third-party surveys, so some sites it sends you to are better than others. It takes a long time to earn points, but the site’s expansive rewards marketplace has hundreds of options to choose from, including gift cards, sweepstakes and PayPal payments. Check out our full Swagbucks review.

InboxDollars. New users get a $5 bonus after confirming their email address with InboxDollars. But that didn’t make up for how little we earned per hour while taking surveys — 41 cents, the lowest rate among the 12 sites we tested. On occasion, instead of sending us surveys, the site directed us to promotions that required our address, phone number and birthdate. Read our InboxDollars review.

Opinion Outpost. Some survey sites bombard users with information and opportunities — but not Opinion Outpost. Its simple, intuitive website enabled us to take survey after survey without much thought. As beginners, we also appreciated the site’s straightforward points system, which works out to 10 cents per point. Most importantly, we actually made some money. We averaged $1.50 per hour on Opinion Outpost and were able to cash it out on Amazon. See our Opinion Outpost review for more information.

MyPoints. This site offered 75 survey opportunities, the most of any site we tested. But it also had the lowest success rate, 9.33%, and a low average hourly pay rate. Plus, the reasons for survey disqualifications often were unclear. On one occasion, we were disqualified after being asked to write the word “Purple.” (Yes, we spelled it correctly.) See our full MyPoints review.

CashCrate. Many sites reward users through a confusing point system, so we appreciated that CashCrate discloses the monetary value of each survey. However, during surveys, we often struggled to determine when we were actually earning money and when we were attempting to qualify for paid opportunities. And after five hours in this confusing process, we didn’t earn enough money to cash out. Read more in our CashCrate review.

Toluna. Unlike many other sites, Toluna lets users pick the topics of their surveys, such as electronics or travel, which made the work more interesting. However, this perk didn’t make up for its low pay. Upon converting points to cash, we earned only 71 cents per hour — one of the lowest rates of all the sites we tested. Our five hours’ worth of points weren’t nearly enough to redeem the cheapest gift cards. Learn more in our Toluna review.

Global Test Market. This site offers consistent opportunities for surveys, a generally positive user experience and an hourly rate of $1.92, the second highest of any site we tested. But it does have a few issues common to many survey sites, like the occasional late-stage disqualification. See our Global Test Market review for more information.

MySurvey. This site offers an easy-to-use dashboard, a steady stream of surveys and a decent qualification rate — 28.89%. However, we encountered numerous issues with the site, which made the survey-taking experience generally poor. The disqualification policy was unclear and the 1,000-point minimum cash-out requirement was hard to hit. Check out our MySurvey review to learn more.

OneOpinion. This site is a survey aggregator with an effective screening process. Its dashboard is informative and displays helpful sections, such as your activity and a customer support form. The site was above average at picking surveys we qualified for. As for the points awarded per survey, 500 or 1,000 points may look high at first, but when converted to actual rewards, you’d get 50 cents or a dollar. Also, you can’t cash out until you reach 25,000 points, equivalent to $25. Read more in our OneOpinion review.

i-Say. This site only provides surveys through Ipsos, the market research firm that owns it. The site offers fewer surveys than aggregators do, but you stay on i-Say for every survey, which makes the overall experience easier. Sometimes it displays surveys you already tried, which is confusing. You can cash out rewards starting at 500 points, which is equivalent to $5. For more information, check out the i-Say review.

VIP Voice. This site offers relevant surveys, a good overall user experience and the highest success rate of any site NerdWallet tested — over 50%. But its payout options are limited to bids on auction items and sweepstakes entries, so there’s no guarantee that users will get fair (or any) compensation for their time. Read our VIP Voice review.

Survey Junkie. This site is a smaller survey aggregator, but it stands out. The site has a clean, easy-to-use dashboard and offers a high point value for each survey you complete. The point system is direct and shows you how much your points are worth in dollars right on the dashboard. But you have to get to 1,000 points, equal to $10, before you can cash out. Check out our Survey Junkie review for more information.

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Swagbucks Review – Is Swagbucks a Scam or Legit?

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I must say that when I first went to the Swagbucks website, I was a little confused and somewhat skeptical. It mentioned things like being a “premier rewards site” and a leading online search engine. But if they were a search engine, then how does one generate the rewards from? And why have I never heard of them? Well, it turns out that Swagbucks is indeed pretty legit.

In a nutshell, Swagbucks is a search engine just like Google or Ask, but you can get rewards points just for searching the web. And actually, the site is sponsored by Google and Ask!

Swagbucks is overall a pretty cool site. You can simply install their toolbar on your computer right next to your Google toolbar, and just do your Internet searches from there. The results are close to the same. If you’re doing Internet searches for research purposes or work purposes, I’d recommend going with Google because their search results are superior to Swagbucks and many other search engines as well. But if you’re looking for anything else, Swagbucks is a great option for getting quality search results while gaining rewards points. Not only can you get rewards for searching the Web, but their site also offers a whole host of other options for building up your Swag Bucks.

How It Works

It’s amazingly simple. You just sign up and you can either go to their website each time you want to gain points for surfing the web, or you can just download the Swagbucks toolbar and do your searches from there.

Then each time you do a search using the Swagbucks search engine, you gain Swag Bucks which are good towards a wide variety of prizes, including everything from GPS systems to memorabilia to gift cards to actual cash via PayPal.

Other Ways To Gain Points

However, your ability to gain points does not end with merely search queries. There are a ton of other ways to save and earn Swag Bucks:

1. Special Offers
You can earn points by signing up for special offers or registering as a user with some websites. They also have a daily NOSO (No Obligation Special Offer) that can gain you points. This is a special offer that involves no cost and no obligation to you.

2. Surveys
You can also earn Swagbucks by filling out surveys through their site. You’ll have to consider the time involved here when debating whether online surveys are worth it or not.

3. Shop
They also have a shopping section where you can earn one Swag Buck for every dollar that you spend there. At first, I didn’t expect to see “big” retailers there, but I was able to find quite a few well-known names. Walmart and Macy’s are there as well as lots of others.

4. Trade-In Program
They also have a very unique program where you can actually trade in your old cell phone or your old video game system for Swag Bucks. In fact, I have a few old cell phones that I plan on sending to them when I get around to it. I’ll at least get something for them in return!

5. Polls
They also have daily polls where you can gain Swag Bucks. Simply answer a few questions and you get the bucks!

6. Invite Friends
And of course, you can also increase your Swagbucks by inviting your friends to join. You can get up to 1,000 points per referral.

Check It Out, But Balance Your Time

Swagbucks is certainly worth checking out, but the site could become a little addicting. If you’re going to use it solely for your search engine queries, I’m all for that. After all, we all use search engines anyways, so why not use a search engine that rewards us with free money and prizes? In this regard, using Swagbucks wouldn’t take up any extra time at all.

But if you end up sitting on the site filling out surveys, filling out the daily polls, completing special offers, and inviting your friends, your time could be easily sucked away every day. That’s not to say that it’s still not worth it, but you need to seriously consider your time and weight the benefits of the site against the amount of time you’re spending on it.

This is by no means a criticism of the site; this is simply a word to the wise. I can envision many people going to the site, checking out all of the things that Swagbucks has to offer, and then looking up at the clock to find that three hours have passed by. In some ways, this has the potential to be like a Facebook time warp. Just be conscious of the time you’re spending on a site like Swagbucks!

Final Word

I have given you the basics to Swagbucks, but you really just need to check it out to get a full understanding of the site and see if it fits your needs.

My personal take in a nutshell? If someone is going to allow me to generate real prizes and money by doing what I normally do every day of the week, then absolutely I’ll use the product. The search engine is good enough that it’s worth me moving my searches over there. And when I have some free time, I’ll also take advantage of their other ways to earn additional Swag Bucks like their special offers and polls.

During the writing of this review, I installed the Swagbucks toolbar on my computer at home. At the completion of this review, I had already gained 41 Swag Bucks! Now, I’ve only got 709 to go before I can get a $5 Amazon gift card!

What has your experience with Swagbucks been like?

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