Click with caution. Social media scams are on the rise, especially on popular sites like Facebook where approximately 75% of adults between 50-64 years old, and 50% of those over age 65, use the platform somewhat regularly. Instagram and Twitter are also seeing an increase in scams, typically involving social media ads, posts or messages. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 95,000 complaints in 2021 which was a six-fold increase over reported incidents in 2019.
According to the FTC, those 95,000 complaints equated to $770 million lost to social media scams. And it’s not just older people getting scammed these days. As new scams involving cryptocurrency and online shopping become more popular the risk to younger consumers increases exponentially. In 2021, cryptocurrency was the method of payment in 64% of investment scams reported to the FTC.
Why is social media so attractive to scammers?
Social media is a low-cost way to reach billions of unsuspecting consumers across the globe. It’s relatively simple to create a fake account, or hack into an existing profile, and create scams using the tools available to online advertisers to systematically target users with fraudulent ads. Payment apps and services were the next most popular payment methods (13% of cases), followed by bank transfers or bank payments (9%).
The scams with the highest number of reports to the FTC involve attempted online shopping purchases via an advertisement seen marketed on Facebook or Instagram. In most cases, consumers placed an order, after seeing an ad, but then never received the merchandise. However, the uptick in online shopping scams affects more than the consumer losing money; it’s problematic to the entire e-commerce ecosystem. Facebook and Instagram have invested heavily to make online shopping part of their core business, connecting advertisers with their target audience and scammers threaten to disrupt this arrangement.
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 you can update your privacy settings on most platforms.
- Check if you can opt-out of targeted advertising. Some platforms let you do that.
- 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’s how scammers ask you to pay.
- If someone appears on your social media and rushes you to start a friendship or romance, slow down. Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
- Check out a company before you buy! Search online for the company name plus “scam” or “complaint.”
Some scams to look out for:
What more can you do to protect yourself?
- Regularly update your privacy settings on all social media accounts.
- Opt out of targeted advertising so apps can’t access your profile information.
- Use different passwords for various accounts and set up two-factor authentication.
- Contact a friend offline if you get a weird message about an investment opportunity or need for money as their account may have been hacked.
- Be cautious what you post – keep personal details and your location private.
Lastly, don’t accept friend requests from strangers or download apps via links on social media unless you can verify the authenticity. Watch out for social media quizzes or surveys requesting personal information and avoid suspicious links, even from people you know, as these carry phishing or malware risks.
As always, if you have any questions or are concerned about how to keep yourself, your family, or your company safe- reach out to Grapevine MSP. We are experts in our field and can help you stay safe!