The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report last week detailing an increase in social media fraud scams in 2021. The report stated more than one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media with an ad, a post, or a message. Social media platforms are incredibly easy tools for scammers to use, they can either create a fake profile to deceive people or buy stolen credentials on the dark web and use a real profile. Threat actors use personal details that users share publicly to develop their scams and target specific victims. The FTC stated that the most popular scams used by threat actors were investment scams followed by romance scams. In total, the FTC reported that over 95,000 people claimed they were victims of a social media scam in 2021, which amounted to $770 million in losses. The FTC said that Facebook and Instagram were the two most used social media platforms when victims identified which platform was used in the scam.
The FTC reported investment scams, romance scams, and online shopping fraud accounted for over 70% of reported losses to social media scams in 2021. But there are many other fraudulent activities on social media and new ones pop up all the time. Here are some ways to help you and your family stay safe on social media:
• Limit who can see your posts and information on social media. All platforms collect information about you from your activities on social media, but there are generally privacy settings available that can allow you to set some restrictions.
• Check if you can opt out of targeted advertising as some platforms do allow this.
• If you get a message from a friend about an opportunity or an urgent need for money, call them. Their account may have been hacked, especially if they ask you to pay by cryptocurrency, gift card, or wire transfer. That is how scammers generally ask for payment.
• If someone appears on your social media and rushes you to start a friendship or romance, slow down. Read about romance scams, and never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
• Before you buy, check out the company. Search online for its name plus “scam” or “complaint.”
To learn more about how to spot, avoid, and report scams—and how to recover money if you’ve paid a scammer—visit ftc.gov/scams. If you spot a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.