With almost 350 million daily users worldwide, Snapchat is among the most successful social media platforms. And its popularity has also drawn a rising number of scammers on Snapchat.
If you are constantly trying to amp your Snap score or have children who use the platform to chat, it is wise to know about some common Snapchat scams and ways to avoid them.
What are Snapchat Scams?
A Snapchat scam includes any fraud in which your money is lost or private information compromised. These scams are mostly social engineering attacks designed to trick you into believing something false. Scammers may impersonate a close friend or engage large-scale phishing attacks to dupe Snapchat users.
So, how do you protect yourself from such scams? The first step is to know how Snapchat scammers operate.
Who is Snapchat’s audience?
While we know Snapchat primarily for its amusing and interactive augmented reality filters, the app is laden with features that make it feel fresh compared to aged giants like Facebook. It has been the flagbearer for innovation in social media, such as stories, streaks, vanishing snaps and the utter ease of communicating with strangers.
Most of Snapchat’s users are either teenagers or in their early 20s. Despite the number of privacy features, such as screenshot alerts and the ability to hide from Quick Add, Snapchat scams are widespread. Because Snapchat doesn’t store your past activities, it is a win-win for scammers.
Common types of Snapchat scams
“When it comes to Snapchat, there are two primary risks: First, children and teens can be lured into sending explicit photos or videos of themselves; second, they can be scammed out of money or personal information,” said Chris Grayson, the founder of InfluencerMade. “To protect against these risks, parents need to be aware of the capabilities of the Snapchat app and how it works.”
Have a conversation with your children about the dangers of sharing personal information or images online.
“They should consider installing a parental control app that will allow them to monitor their child’s activity on Snapchat and other social media platforms,” Grayson said.
These are some of the common Snapchat scams you should know about:
Phishing scams from fake Snapchat administrators
The idea behind a Snapchat phishing scam is to make you believe the scammer is from a team representing the Snapchat company. You may receive an email or text stating you have been logged out of your account, often because of “suspicious activity.” They ask you to log into your account through a link provided. The intent behind such alerts is to create panic and make you click on malicious links without thinking twice.
Often, these links redirect you to a fake copy of the original Snapchat webpage. As soon as you enter your login details on these fake websites, these details are shared with scammers who then change the password and linked email to nab your account.
The best way to protect yourself against these phishing attempts is to verify the sender’s identity and avoid any suspicious links through email or text. Official communication will usually end at @snapchat.com. Avoid taking action instantly and always ensure the email is from an official source and not any other email address.
A friend who needs money
You might wonder what scammers do with all the accounts they hack through such large-scale phishing attacks. Scammers use these hacked accounts for various cybercrimes and might even ask for a ransom to return your account. Scammers may also misuse hacked accounts to message the account holder’s contacts and ask for money.
Imagine a scenario where a close friend messages you on Snapchat and asks for money. The scammer pretending to be your friend on the other side could make up any reason to create a sense of urgency, such as a crashed vehicle or an immediate medical need. Of course, your friend is fine—again, scammers are banking on a sense of urgency to keep doubts at bay..
The best way to protect yourself from such a scam is to double-check any such payment requests coming from a close friend or kin. It’s best to call the person or text them using a service other than Snapchat to verify if they genuinely need your help.
Cashing a fake check
The fake check scam is an extended version of the same old imposter scam. A friend or a close associate contacts you through Snapchat and makes up a story in which they need your financial assistance. However, this time they don’t want you to send them the money, but they want to get their check cashed.
Scammers ask you to send them the check amount and give you a soft copy of the check in return. Everything sounds normal until you try to cash in your check and the bank rejects it. By this point, you have already lost your money.
Romance scams on Snapchat
Snapchat essentially deletes all of your past activity, including snaps, stories and even messages, making it perfect for anyone who wants to be untraceable. A typical Snapchat romance scams happens when someone pretends to be emotionally attracted to you but eventually tries to get cash or personal information.
As it is easy to connect with strangers on Snapchat, you might get a friend request from a stranger who seems interested in you. Eventually, the scammer would ask for some financial help in gift cards or bank transfers.
In other versions of the romance scam, the scammer might trick you into sending your explicit images and then blackmail you to get them deleted.
The best way to protect yourself from a Snapchat romance is never to pay someone whom you meet online and don’t know well. You could also use BeenVerified’s People Lookup feature to try to verify a person’s identity.
‘Snapchat Girls’ or premium accounts
Snapchat is full of fake accounts that post sexually suggestive images and videos and ask users to pay a subscription fee to enjoy exclusive “premium” content. Intrigued users can subscribe to enjoy this exclusive content that typically includes unrestricted access to an attractive person’s image and videos and the ability to connect with them.
Snapchat does not offer a special account to access premium or support the option to get paid by subscribers. You can, however, subscribe to Snapchat+ for more exciting filters and new and experimental features available to Plus subscribers before others.
These accounts misuse this to solicit payments on outside services such as PayPal or Venmo. Because this transaction for a phony premium subscription is happening outside of Snapchat, you will likely lose your money and eventually be ghosted by the scammer.
The fake opportunity to make money scam
Similar to the imposter scam, a scammer might message you through a hacked or fake account, preferably of someone you already know. The message will contain links to a fake advertisement gig or a brand sponsorship. In these messages, the scammer claims they made a hefty sum using a certain service and invites you to use it, too. As this comes from someone you know, it’s more likely you will check out the link to see if it is legit.
Falling for such fake gigs will result in financial losses, especially if the scam requires an initial investment with promises of greater returns. However, even checking out these fake websites could become a potential threat. These scam websites are often plagued with malware that can infect your device.
How to identify a fake Snapchat profile?
With such a wide variety of Snapchats scams surfacing every day, it is crucial to have a metric that roughly gives you an idea of the legitimacy of the person you are dealing with. Here are some ways to identify if it is a scammer on the other side:
Look at their Snap score
A Snap score is a number that reflects an account’s activity and reflects the total number of snaps sent and received by the user in their account’s entire lifetime. Fake accounts usually have a low Snap score as scammers mostly use their accounts to scam people, not for the snaps. Conversely, an astonishingly high Snap score could also be a red flag as some scammers, especially Snapchat Girls, send multiple snaps to lure in victims.
Look at their Snap map
Snapchat’s Snap map feature lets you see your contact’s location. On a real account, the site of the person on the Snap Map will tally with what their profile mentions. The only caveat to this is a user must allow Snapchat to use their phone’s location for them to show up on the Snap map.
Moreover, there are some tricks to spoof your location on a Snap map, giving hackers a weapon to make you believe they are real.
Search profile photos or stories in Google image search
A quick reverse image search on Google can reveal a lot about a user’s profile. If a Snapchat user is out there to scam you, they typically use generic images for their profile picture or in Stories. You should see the source images in the reverse image search results, which will alert you if a person uses a generic image as their profile picture.
Avoid accounts without a profile picture or Bitmoji
A Snapchat account created solely to scam others will have some telltale signs. One of them is that the scammer behind the screen may use Snapchat without a profile picture, which can be a red flag.
Simultaneously, many users use Bitmoji—an animated avatar—in place of their profile picture. Nowadays, almost everyone uses a Bitmoji on their profile, and an account without one is probably harmful.
How to best protect yourself from Snapchat scams?
Here are some points that you should remember while using Snapchat:
- Open links or QR codes wisely: The internet is full of fake websites with malware. Clicking on such links can make your device vulnerable to hacking attempts. Never click on links, even when they appear very tempting or pressing.
- Never send money or accept checks: It is best to be skeptical of any requests for cash. If a request sounds genuine, you must contact the person sending the request through different means.
- Be wary if you start getting suspicious messages from a friend’s account: If a friend starts sending messages that don’t sound like them, their account might be hacked. Verify any such hacking incidents from the account holder and block the hacked account immediately.
- Set up 2FA: Besides filtering seemingly real emails from Snap or a concerning message from a friend, you must also set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for your Snapchat account. This will prevent a hacker from accessing your account even if you fall prey to a phishing attack.
If a hacker has successfully seized your account, you must contact Snapchat support immediately. While Snapchat support should aid you in recovering your account, your personal information and private snaps and chats may have already been accessed by a scammer.
Snapchat is a fun and interactive platform to keep up with your friends and get their latest updates. However, the same platform can become a nightmare if you get trapped in one of the above-mentioned Snapchat scams. As most of these scams are just social engineering attacks, you can avoid almost all of them if you stay vigilant. Scammy accounts often have common red flags, such as low Snap scores, a suspicious Snap map or an incomplete profile.