Social Media In Depth

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Social Media Scams?
  2. Red Flags of Social Media Scams
  3. Most Common Social Media Scams
  4. How to Beat Social Media Scams
  5. Fallen Victim to a Social Media Scam?

Social media is a part of millions of people’s everyday lives—we use it to keep in touch with friends, stay up to date with the news and check out all the latest trends. It can be a great tool in many ways, but, unfortunately, it can also be a stage for fraud. Social media scams use deceiving ads, posts, or messages to lure you into a potentially dangerous situation that could cost you.

Before making that dress purchase off of Instagram or sending an online romantic interest money to come visit you, read about what social media scams are, which flags to look out for, and how to protect yourself if you fall victim to this type of con.

What Are Social Media Scams?

A social media scam is when someone presents themselves fraudulently online either by creating a fake profile to contact you, selling you counterfeit items, or convincing you that you won a fake giveaway/sweepstakes.

Social media scams involve retrieving your personal information, including passwords, banking information, or login credentials. They could also directly or indirectly ask you for money through purchase, donation, contribution, or investment.

Scammers will then use any information they gather from you to either steal your money, personal information, or both.

Social Media Scam Stats

About $770 million was lost by more than 95,000 people to social media scams in 2021, accounting for 25% of all reported fraud. Social media scams were more profitable for scammers in 2021 than by using any other method.

Red Flags of Social Media Scams

Signs of a social media scam are sometimes hard to detect but will often be one of those “too good to be true” moments.

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • If you get an email from one of your social media accounts asking you to confirm your identity out of the blue, it may be a scam. Scammers use phishing links to trick users into entering their sensitive information so that they can steal it.
  • If an advertisement shows a product at a massive discount that you know is nowhere near that price normally, it most likely has some hidden agenda.
    social media scams
    Real Chanel handbags are hundreds and thousands of dollars. The listing price is one of many red flags here.
  • Free giveaways are common but watch out for ones that require you to enter personal information, including passwords, financial information, or login credentials.
  • Be wary of people asking you for payment via a wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency for a good or service they are selling. Scammers know these forms of payment are nearly untraceable, and they can get away with your money without providing whatever service or product they promised.
    social media scams
    A seller requesting payment via gift cards is a major red flag. (Source: ABC11)
  • Be cautious of people you meet on online dating sites asking for money to come visit you if you’ve never met them in person. Often times, these are scammers trying to steal your money.
  • Sometimes scammers will hack accounts of people you know and ask for money. If something seems off about their communication style or the reason for the funds request, it’s like a red flag of a social media scam.

Most Common Social Media Scams

Three of the most common social media scams that have taken hold in recent years are investment, romance, and online shopping scams.

These categories made up 70% of all social media scams in 2021. Facebook and Instagram were identified as the main starting points for the majority of these scams.

Investment Scams

Social media is a valuable tool for investors, but a scammer may use that same tool to hurt their business. Hiding behind the anonymity of social media can allow fraudsters to reach a mass audience without spending a lot of time or money.

One sign to watch out for with investment scams is a call for unsolicited investment. You may receive some sort of pitch or invitation to invest in something you’ve never heard of or a company whose statistics seem a little too good compared to the competition.

social media scams
Example of communications between a scammer posing as a bitcoin exchange program. (Source: Do Not Deal With)

Additionally, investment newsletters are popular ways for companies to advertise their stocks to draw in new investors. While many are legitimate, they are also used to spread misinformation about worthless stocks by using false data, including the payments they receive and the success of their current stocks.

Online bulletin boards and chat rooms are also full of this false information spread by scammers. They present themselves as real investors or companies providing data that makes them seem legit. In reality, though, they are just trying to feed you lies about other companies or get you to invest in their fraudulent business.

Romance Scams

Romance scams ranked as the second most profitable scam on social media in 2021. The average person caught by one of these scams lost about $2,000. They start as innocently as making a new connection online but inevitably turn into that individual asking for, and possibly taking, your money.

A popular rouse is to say they live or are working outside the U.S. After building up a relationship and trust, eventually, the time comes when they start to ask for money for anything from travel expenses to medical bills or paying off a debt.

A popular way for these romance scammers to ask for money is via wire transfer, by reloading a MoneyPak card, or by giving a gift card from a vendor such as Amazon or Google Play. This gets them their money fast, and there is almost no way of you getting your money back.

Online Shopping Scams

Online shopping made up 45% of all money lost to social media scams, according to the FTC’s 2021 report. About 70% of these people said they would see an advertisement, place an order, and never receive their merchandise.

Scammers will go to the point of creating an entire website to impersonate a well-known company to get you to purchase their product without any intention of providing you with the merchandise.

Some advertisements are set up on actual retailer sites advertising similar products at a fraction of the price. Following the link, you may be able to purchase an item, and you may even receive it in the mail, but no doubt it will be of far less quality than the item you paid for.

social media scams
Some scammers will use brand names in the title, but you may receive a completely different brand. (Source: eBay Community)

Websites also may be created temporarily to sell fake branded jewelry or clothing, then after a certain number of sales, the website and any trace of the business disappears. A common tactic of all these types of sites is to only accept payment via money order, wire transfers, or pre-loaded money cards.

How to Beat Social Media Scams

Recognizing the scams is only the first step; you next need to actively avoid them. Here are some ways to beat social media scams.

  • Regularly check and update the privacy settings on your social media.
  • Keep your accounts private so only people you know can see your information.
  • Change your passwords regularly and do not use the same username and/or password across various platforms.
  • Be aware of what information you are posting publicly. Consider what personal information you are allowing scammers to see that they could potentially be used against you.
  • Do not click on links that seem suspicious or too good to be true.
  • Do not download anything unless you can confirm it is from a trusted source.
  • Do not continue to keep in contact with anyone you do not know personally who has begun to ask for money or goods.
  • If someone reaches out to you and suspiciously starts to ask for things, cut off communication with them.
  • If a site asks for personal information when it is not necessary, do not enter it.

Next time you log into your social media account, remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Being aware of what you do online can protect you and your family from social media scams.

Fallen Victim to a Social Media Scam?

If you think you have fallen victim to a social media scam, the first step is to verify if it is a real scam. If it has to do with online shopping, there may be a legitimate reason your merchandise has not arrived yet, so contact the seller immediately.

Otherwise, there are a few things you can do to secure your personal and financial information.

Contact Your Financial Institutions

If paid the scammer using your credit card, report it as a fraudulent transaction and let them know what happened. You may get a full refund for your purchase by disputing the charge.

Unfortunately, if you paid via wire transfer, gift cards, or a prepaid card, you may not be able to get your money back.

Report it to the Authorities

Next, you will want to report the fraud to the appropriate departments. Report social media scams to:

Most social media sites also have a fraud department to report suspicious posts or messages that you can notify of your encounter.

Change Your Passwords

You should protect yourself from further scams by immediately changing all your passwords and updating your security settings. Use a strong password with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols and avoid using common words, phrases or your birthdate.

Contact the Credit Bureaus

If you are concerned about identity theft, bank account, or stolen credit card information, you can place a fraud alert or credit freeze.

You only need to create a fraud alert once since placing one with Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion means it’ll automatically be reported it to the other agencies.

To freeze your credit, you must contact each consumer credit reporting agency separately.

Scams Relating to Social Media

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Guides Relating to Social Media

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Common LinkedIn Scams to Watch Out For
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News Relating to Social Media

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Social Media: The New Favorite Amongst Scammers
1 February 2022 |

Social Media: The New Favorite Amongst Scammers

Social media platforms are possibly the most used tools in committing fraud, responsible for $770 million in losses.

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$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles
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$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles

Fake Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton handbags and clothing were just some of the items found in a large shipment of counterfeit goods coming in from China.