Spam — it’s annoying, it’s potentially dangerous and it’s everywhere. Lately, there’s been a surge of it on Twitter, clogging up direct message inboxes and feeds.
Receiving spam is bad enough, but when you’re the one doling it out, it feels even worse. It can cause you to lose followers, infect your friends’ accounts or computers and put your own account in danger.
It’s important to understand how Twitter spam is generated and what it looks like. The only way your account can generate spam is if it’s been hacked. That person or entity then uses your account to send out tweets and DMs with links to spam sites or ads, and those who click may jeopardize their own accounts with hacks or computer malware.
The most common type of Twitter spam is via tweet. Someone you follow will tweet a suspicious link, advertising for weight loss programs or scandalous pictures, for example. Occasionally, a spam account will follow you and tag you with spam. The most important thing to remember is: If you aren’t sure about the link, don’t click it, even if it’s from someone you trust.
Here’s an example of what a spam tweet could look like:
Image: Flickr, minjungkim
Spam can arrive in the form of a direct message to your Twitter inbox, likely from a follower or someone you know, with a short message and a link. The message will usually have something to do with sharing photos or information. Here’s what a typical spam message looks like:
Image: Flickr, IsaacMao
There’s no need to panic. Spam does not affect your account or computer as long as you refrain from clicking the link. If you’re not sure whether something your friend sent you is safe or not, contact him separately and ask. He might not know he’s been hacked.
If you suspect your account is compromised and you’re not sure what to do, take these very simple steps to regain control and stop the spread of spam.
1. Change Your Password.
The fastest and easiest way to thwart your Twitter spam is to change your account password. When you select a new password, make sure it’s random and complicated, with capital letters, numbers and symbols. The weirder you make it, the harder it is for someone to guess or crack. And change it at least once every year.
2. Alert Your Followers.
Let your followers know you are aware of the problem and are taking steps to fix it. Advise them if they receive any strange links, they should ignore. It is proper online etiquette to apologize for the inconvenience, but most people aren’t likely to find you at fault. By tweeting about handling the problem, people will be less likely to unfollow you. since they know the spam is only temporary.
3. Revoke App Access.
The person who has access to your account may be using a Twitter app to spend spam. Thankfully, Twitter has a solution for this. Go into your settings (the gear at the top-right of the page), then go to Apps. From there, you can revoke access to any devices or third party application, so the hacker can’t use the app anymore and you can still tweet from your smartphone.
4. Delete Tweets/Messages.
Go back and remove any and all spam tweets. Even if you’ve alerted your followers, someone could go back and accidentally click a spam link later on. It also shows you’ve dealt with the problem and want to make sure there’s no trace of it left. If you have received spam in your inbox, be sure to delete it if only so you don’t accidentally click it in the future.
You can also take additional steps, for example, scanning your own computer or laptop for viruses and deleting all your cookies. That could be how hackers attained your Twitter password in the first place. If it finds any viruses or malware, you may want to change the password to your other social media accounts, email and online banking.
Have any experiences with getting or accidentally giving spam? Have more tips for those unsure what to do? Leave them in the comments below.
Image: Flickr, Declan Malone