Snapchat Scams and How to Avoid Them

  • By Steven
  • Published: May 02, 2024
  • Last Updated: May 08, 2024

 

Snapchat is a mobile-based social media platform owned by Snap Inc.; it is a global platform, hosting over 734.8 million users, the majority of which are Gen Z. The platform began as a resource for sharing pictures between friends but has evolved to include options for creator content, group conversations, and the sharing of media. As Snapchat’s audience continues to grow, so too, do the threats those members face. The platform allows individuals as young as 13 to create accounts, and despite being digital natives, these Gen Z users are particularly high-risk targets for malicious activities.

Snapchat is riddled with scamming opportunities, and unless users are vigilant, they may fall victim to threat actors. This content provides a comprehensive review of the scams that target unsuspecting Snapchat users, including tips on recognizing and avoiding these traps. Share this content with other Snapchat users and those around you to help mitigate cyber threat attacks and contribute to an overall safer online environment. 

Snapchat Scams

What are Snapchat Scams?

Scams can originate in many ways, from business emails capturing credentials to phone calls used to record a person’s voice for later misuse. Snapchat scams are those malicious activities that begin on Snapchat’s mobile platform; most often, these are text-based incidents, but the nuances of a scam can vary. The most common cases of these scams include:

Phishing, when a threat actor tries to bait a user into sharing particular information, including personal and financial details.

Spoofing, where a threat actor creates a duplicate account to encourage users to interact with them under pretenses.

Snapchat streak scams, where a threat actor pushes users into consistent communications using the “streak” feature, often building rapport with their target.

 

These scams are among the most successful on Snapchat. Criminal schemes succeed using these methods by manipulating their target—often members of the younger demographics. As a result, Snapchat scams can be deceptive and dangerous, especially when minors share personal and financial information with threat actors they unwittingly trust.

How do Snapchat Scams Work?

Snapchat scams work by a threat actor manipulating the trust of an authentic user and using that rapport to exploit the user for differing gains. Depending on the end goal of the scam, a threat actor may create a new account or utilize an account they have stolen credentials for to manipulate other users into sharing information or building trust.

Moreover, there is no way to differentiate an authentic user from a threat actor on the platform; Snapchat’s privacy policy allows users to create a new account and add random users from their suggested friends, regardless of whether they know each other in real life. Unless those users know the threats they could run into on Snapchat, there are no indications that something would be wrong—short of the threat actor having some tell-tale signs of malicious intent.

As a consequence of any user being a threat, those who use the platform must learn about the risks they could encounter. After all, knowing the signs of a scam could be the difference between identity theft, financial and employment loss, and a profile block.

Types of Common Snapchat Scams

Below you will find types of snapchat scams

Phishing Scams

As mentioned above, phishing scams are a manipulative method of obtaining specific information from a potential victim. These scams can occur in many ways, from anonymous phone calls to text messages in smishing events. In the case of Snapchat, victims get tricked into giving away personal information through fake web pages and when responding to fraudulent security alerts. These threat-made communications can come in many forms and always prompt the user to take action.

Fake Account Scams

Other Snapchat scams involve impersonating friends and celebrities to tease out information or extort money from potential victims. In some cases, threat actors might use Snapchat text message spam to manipulate authentic users into specific behaviors, similar to the emotional abuse that occurs in romantic scams. The difference with fake account scams is that these accounts might be authentic—but are controlled by a malicious party. These scams require authentic users to interact with them to further the scheme.

Peer-to-Peer Transaction Scams

Snapchat has a history of pioneering features attached to its platform, and one of these features became known as “Snapcash.” It was a peer-to-peer transaction service that was discontinued in 2018. It quickly became a favored method for users to exchange money for services, including adult content. Since the discontinuation of Snapcash, other mobile payment platforms have filled the gap, including Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, and Cash App.

Some threat actors use peer-to-peer transaction services to scam authentic users. They might trick a user into sending money to “zombie” or decoy accounts; they could impersonate adult performers, enticing others into sending “tips” or card payment numbers; they might even offer products or services to others—and after they get what they want, they’ll disappear back into cyberspace.

Investment and Cryptocurrency Scams

The most opportunistic of these common scams involve investments and cryptocurrencies. These scams specifically target young adults with a disposable income; the orchestrator uses the unsure nature of the future, in combination with the state of the world (i.e., limited employment, rising costs, further retirement ages), to offer potential victims a quick and easy “get out” solution—typically guaranteed investments and crypto growth.

Moreover, the outcomes of these scams can be destructive, as users give all their liquidity to a “sure” investment; then, regardless of whether the current scheme succeeds (it never does), the scammer has enough rapport to continue to extract money and funds from the victim. Investment scams are a high-risk scam that usually targets seniors, but when added to naive users, these scams can become extremely (repetitively) lucrative.

5 Common Snapchat Scams

Here are most common snapchat scams:

Romance Scams

Those struggling with romance are high-risk targets for romance scams. A threat actor can create a new account and speak with potential targets to form a (one-sided) emotional connection. However, once this “bond” is formed, the scammer will ask for money, favors, or other assets they think the user can give them. Romance scams are exploitive, cruel schemes that target specific users for emotional and financial manipulation.

Common Snapchat Scams

Imposter Scams 

All Snapchat text message scams come from imposters; users wouldn’t interact with them if they didn’t. However, knowing this doesn’t stop users from speaking with strangers—especially when those strangers are actively trying to gain trust or extract favors. Adult content creators, celebrities, friends, and system administrators are common targets for impersonation; consequently, authentic users must use caution when they receive unsolicited messages from people “they know.”

Fake Contest Scams 

Some malicious actors use scams involving non-existent contests to entice users. They might lead with a “congratulations” for winning a large prize—only to require the user to pay associated fees, submit personal information into a decoy form, or comply with other “requirements,” like obtaining gift cards for exchange or wiring money to a bank account to then be “sent” the prize amount. These are all scams designed to pressure a victim into revealing information.

Meet-up Scams 

Arguably the most dangerous of scams, some online threats work to lure users into unsafe meet-ups. These situations can differ from case to case, but most rely on an authentic user being driven to meet with the scammer. It could be a romantic setup, a friendly get-together, or an event with malicious intent—it depends on the actor. However, a clear sign is associated with scammers choosing this tactic; they request travel costs, then bail at the last moment, sometimes repetitively.

Employment and Investment Scams

Another common scam on Snapchat and other social media websites is employment imposters. These fake job opportunities (or investment schemes) encourage a potential victim to share personal information—sometimes, under the disguise of a job application or resume request. Either way, once the threat has more information about you, they can use that data to craft better lies, enticing a victim into giving more information or money.

Essential Tips for Avoiding Snapchat Scams

To avoid Snapchat scams, there are a few important tips to follow:

Stay Informed

The technology and tactics that scammers use evolve daily, meaning that a standard scamming option today may be replaced by another tomorrow. Consequently, all online users need to stay up-to-date with the latest scamming methods—learning a little more can be the difference between becoming a victim and avoiding disaster.

Privacy Settings

Snapchat has many options for privacy settings—and enabling them limits a user’s exposure to potential scammers. To access an account’s privacy settings, tap the gear button on a profile screen to open the “Settings” page, then select the “Privacy Controls” section. From this page, choose the most limiting options, restricting who can contact you, view your stories, your location, your cameos, and who can “Quick Add” you to their contact lists.

Verify Contacts

Before starting a conversation with a stranger, try verifying who they are first. Check out their profile for hints about who they are (or if the account was recently created). Also, consider searching the stranger’s name and social media accounts online before giving them any indication of interest. If you can’t verify who you are talking to, it’s best to block them and move on—you never know who is on the other side of a message.

Don’t Share Personal Information

Social media, broadly, has unique dangers. One of these dangers is the exposure of personal information. Add the potential exposure of personal data to the naive user experiencing social media for the first time, and the accidental revealing of data is always a threat. Despite operating via cell phone numbers, Snapchat is a social media platform; that means users must exercise extreme caution when posting information about themselves—but it’s best not to put it out there, period.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

A great way to protect an account is by enabling more security. A complex password is a good start, but if a malicious agent guesses (or steals) it, the profile can quickly become an issue. Enabling two-factor authentication is one way to ensure that even if a hacker does find your password, they can’t access or use the information in a meaningful way; that gives the potential victim more time to expel them from the profile, and more options for mitigating the issues they can cause.

Only vigilance and proactive measures can help users avoid falling victim to scams. Snapchat scams are destructive and deceitful, manipulating authentic users by first building rapport and trust. In the case of Gen Z users, these threats can be challenging to recognize and even harder to face when things go wrong.

By sharing information about these threats, we can help educate those at risk for manipulation, which can contribute to the mitigation of scams, the opening of conversations about online safety, and a safer, better online environment for everyone

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