Handling Social Media Spammers and Scammers

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

Handling Social Media Spammers and Scammers

Using social media for communications and marketing means producing content that is compelling and appropriate for each platform, as well as the audience you’re trying to attract and engage. People expect companies to be on social networks, listening and hearing their questions, praises, and complaints. They also expect immediate responses and resolutions to their issues. Add spam and scams to the online conversations you’re monitoring, and you’ve really got your hands full.

How do you deal with the rise of spammers and scammers on social networks? First, you need to understand the difference between spam and a scam.

Spam usually refers to repeated messaging, often with malicious intent to create an annoyance, an interference, or a breakdown of civil communication on a social network. Spam can consist of anything from promoting questionable products or services to hurling insults or lodging complaints.

Spam can flood your social network comments section or your direct message boxes. Some spam is automated while others could be disgruntled customers or simply random individuals with nothing better to do.

Scams, on the other hand, are carefully calculated messages on social networks meant to lure someone into an often-complex scheme, typically to gain access to financial information or to request and receive sums of money. Some scammers can use spamming as a technique for casting a wide net to find the one vulnerable person who will fall for their trickery.

Here are some examples of actual scam messages:

The innocent-sounding request:

I was thinking about using this picture from your profile for the Art piece if that’s fine by you?

The direct money-making offer:

If you are completely new to forex options and bitcoin trading, you can open an account with me today on forex trade and earn more profit online trade.

The romantic enticement:

Gracious morning. 💐 Your profile picture caught my eye. You are so beautiful. ❤ I think I’m in love with you. I thought I’d stop by and check on you. 😘 May Your day be as wonderful as you are, and your night be filled with angels and best dreams. ✨

There are several steps you can take to deal with spammers and scammers. Unfortunately, most are tedious and time consuming. Here are some key actions to take:

  1. Establish your social media guidelines that outline what you consider to be inappropriate communications or conduct on your social network accounts. Post this prominently and refer to it regularly so users know what actions you will take if the guidelines are violated.
  2. Review the usage guidelines or "Terms of Service" of the social networks you use to understand what they deem violations.
  3. Make note of the options that are open to you for managing your social media accounts. On Facebook, for example, you can hide offensive messages and ban someone from your Page, but on X, all you can do is file a report. On Instagram, you can delete offensive comments that appear on your posts and file a report. Filing reports does not necessarily mean any action will be taken by the social network.
  4. Gather the links to all of the reporting pages on the social networks you use and familiarize yourself with their reporting process. Keep the links easily accessible when monitoring and managing your social networks.

Develop a clear process for handling spammers versus scammers. For spammers, you’ll want to hide or delete as many of the repeated messages as possible. Take careful note to differentiate between a valid customer complaint versus a random spam attack. You’ll want to have a different process for handling unhappy customers versus the unrelated annoying spam. Set aside time each day to review messages and handle spam or it can accumulate quickly and turn into a much larger task.

For scammers, you also want to hide or delete their messages or ban them, if you can. Reporting scammers is much more important than reporting spammers. Take screenshots of their messages and submit them with the report you file, if that is an option on the reporting form.

Consider composing a message that alerts your followers to the dangers of online scams. This educational information could be a post or a comment on the posts where scammers have been communicating.

To combat spam and scams, know what tools are at your disposal and what support each social network you use offers. While there is no way to prevent spam or scams from happening, putting a system in place to monitor and manage these messages can help keep them under control.