(TNS) – More than one in four people who reported to the Federal Trade Commission that they lost money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media, according to the agency.
The FTC said the data suggests social media was “significantly more profitable for scammers in 2021 than any other method of reaching people.”
According to the FTC, more than 95,000 people in 2021 said they lost money because of a scam that started with a social media message, post, or advertisement. Their losses totaled $770 million. Social media scams have skyrocketed over the past half-decade, as in 2017, 5,000 people reported social media scams to the FTC, with losses totaling $42 million.
“For scammers, there’s a lot to love about social media,” the FTC said. “It’s an inexpensive way to reach billions of people from anywhere in the world. It’s easy to make a fake persona, or scammers can hack into an existing profile to scam “friends”.
“There is the possibility of refining their approach by studying the personal details that people share on social networks. In fact, scammers could easily use the tools available to advertisers on social media platforms to systematically target people with fake advertisements based on personal information such as their age, interests or past purchases. .
By far the most common type of social media scam in 2021 involved online shopping. These types of scams accounted for 45% of all scams reported on social media.
In about 70% of online shopping scam reports, victims told the FTC that they placed an order – usually after seeing an ad – but never received what they wanted. had bought. In some cases, victims reported that the ads posed as genuine online retailers that led people to “look-alike” websites.
“When people identified a specific social media platform in their undelivered goods reports, nearly 9 in 10 named Facebook or Instagram,” the FTC said.
Despite accounting for a large share of scams, online shopping scams accounted for only 14% of total financial loss in 2021. Investment scams accounted for the largest financial loss in 2021 (37%), although they account for 18% of all social media scams. .
“Reports clearly indicate that social media is a tool for fraudsters in investment scams, especially those involving fake cryptocurrency investments – an area that has seen a massive increase in reports,” the statement said. FTC.
In cases where the method of payment was reported, cryptocurrency was used in 64% of investment fraud reports on social media last year. This is followed by payment application or service (13%) and transfer or bank payment (9%).
The FTC reported in May 2021 that many victims reported being lured to websites that look like cryptocurrency investing or mining opportunities, but are fake. These fraudulent sites often offer several levels of investment. The more you invest, the greater the expected returns.
Some use fake testimonials and cryptocurrency jargon to sound believable, “but promises of huge, guaranteed returns are just lies.”
“These websites may even give the impression that your investment is growing,” the FTC said. “But people report that when they try to withdraw supposed profits, they are told to send even more crypto – and end up getting nothing back.”
There are also “giveaway scams” that the FTC says are supposedly sponsored by a celebrity or other well-known cryptocurrency figure. These scams promised to immediately multiply the cryptocurrencies people send.
But victims report that they later discovered that they had simply sent their crypto directly to a scammer’s wallet. According to the FTC, over a six-month period, people reported sending more than $2 million in cryptocurrency to Elon Musk impersonators.
Romance scams accounted for 9% of scam reports on social media and 24% of total financial losses in 2021. Almost a quarter (23%) of romance scams reported in 2021 started on Facebook and 13% started on Instagram.
The FTC said 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 suggests the following tips for avoiding social media scams:
- Limit who can see your messages and information. All platforms collect information about you from your social media activities, but some restrictions can be put in place by visiting your privacy settings.
- Check if you can opt out of targeted advertising, which some platforms allow. If you receive a message from a friend about an opportunity or an urgent need for money, call them. Their account may have been hacked. This is especially possible if they ask you to pay by cryptocurrency, gift card or bank transfer.
- If someone pops up on your social media and is rushing to start a friendship or romance, slow down. Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
- Before buying, consult the company. Search online for its more “scam” or “complaint” name.
More information on how to spot, avoid and report scams, as well as how to get money back if you’ve paid a scammer, can be found at ftc.gov/scams. Spotted scams can be reported to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
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