CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Social media scammers are finding creative ways to trick consumers when they least expect it.
Scams that often start with a post, advertisement or direct message on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media sites doubled year-on-year in 2021, resulting in 770 million dollars in losses for consumers, according to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Calling social media a “goldmine” for scammers, the FTC said these platforms are far more profitable than any other method of reaching consumers for scams. Those who lost money on social media were most likely to fall victim to one of three types of scams: investment scams, romance scams, or online shopping scams.
According to the FTC, the more than 95,000 such consumer complaints filed last year were double the number recorded in 2020, and the dollars lost last year represented an 18% increase from 2017.
Social media sites offer “an inexpensive way to reach billions of people from anywhere in the world,” the FTC’s Emma Fletcher wrote in a notice. Scammers can easily create fake personas or hack into an existing person’s profile page to find other victims.
Investment scams are the most popular type of social media fraud, accounting for 37% of all such losses. An increase in online investments has been particularly lucrative for scammers, accounting for approximately $285 million in total losses.
Falling in love with a fraudster cost Americans $185 million last year. Losses from romance scams have reached record highs in recent years. More than a third of people who said they lost money to an online romance scam in 2021 said it started on Facebook or Instagram, according to the FTC.
These scams often start with a seemingly innocent friend request from a stranger, followed by sweet talk, and then, inevitably, a request for money, the FTC added.
Meanwhile, what people thought was savvy shopping has turned into a payday for scammers; seven out of 10 people said merchandise they ordered online never arrived. In nearly 70% of those reports, people said they placed an order, usually after seeing an ad, but never received the merchandise, according to the FTC.
The FTC recommends limiting who can see your post, turning off targeted advertising, not sending money by bank transfer or gift card, slowing down online relationships, and researching companies before buy goods online.
If you believe you have been the victim of online fraud, you can report it at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
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