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Don’t be fooled by a social media hoax

If it’s on the Internet, it must be true. Right? Partially. And we’ve all fallen prey to a hoax or two. It’s ok. You can admit it. We’re all human here.

Sadly, most hoaxes arise during a time of tragedy. It’s easy to fool us when our defenses are down. Also, during these times, we’re empathetic and want to share whatever news we find – real or not.

Aside from a simple hoax, these tragedies are also a breeding ground for Internet viruses or identity theft. In the day before social media, we got our news from the morning paper or the television. What was reported was real. There was no questioning it and the same still holds true today. The media has reporters and editors in place to prevent hoaxes from going public. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. However, it’s more of a fool proof method than a suspected link, a shady site asking for money to help victims, or a careless meme with a fake Morgan Freeman quote.

Thanks to the advent of technology and social media, it’s even easier for people to fall prey to social media hoaxes – during a crisis or no crisis. Why? Because we’re all intrepid reporters. We want to be the first in our circle of friends or influencers to share a juicy piece of content and to be revered as having found a gem. Also, it’s easy to share content and it gets easier every day. You either push a button or if you give your social sites access, it’ll even post on your behalf. As social media aficionados, we are obsessed with viral content. If we notice that it’s been liked, commented, or shared several times, then it must be true because how could so many people be wrong? We ignore all logic and blindly share the same content therefore creating a monster of a hoax and that’s exactly how scammers prey on us. They know our weaknesses and target us in a timely fashion.

Don’t be discouraged though. The Internet is still a fun place full of useful information, facts, and reliable news sources. You just have to know how to vet your content and outsmart the scams. It all starts with the belief that not everything you read will be real unless it’s from a trusted news source like CNN, NBC, etc. Keep your wits about you at all times and be suspicious especially after a national or international tragedy. That’s when you’ll really want to be on high alert. If you’ve always had a burning desire to an investigative journalist, a CIA agent, or spy, now is the time to bring out those super powers and do some super sleuth work. Is everyone sharing the same viral photo without a logical quote or reason for sharing? It could be real, it could be not. Google and Snopes.com are a great place to start. Did you just get an email to donate money to an earthquake/hurricane fund but yet the website looks it was created back in the late 90’s? Yeah, it’s safe to ignore that one. Have you gotten a DM with a link to some trashy party photos of you? Ask yourself if you went to any parties. Did you take any photos? If you didn’t, don’t click. If you did, ask yourself if you know who’s DMing them.

In the end, even the best of us get fooled. It happens. We might follow all the safety precautions but if something looks good, we toss all logic out the window, click the link, share the content, and suffer the embarrassment of being proven wrong. However, we can learn to be smarter and wiser about each new scam or hoax that crosses our path and be wary of them.

What social media hoax have you fallen for and what tips and tricks do you have to prevent a hoax from spreading? Share your stories and ideas in the comments below.

 

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