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Consumers lost $770 million to fraud initiated on social media

Threat actors increasingly use online networks to con consumers. In 2021, victims reported $770 in losses to scams that started on social media.

Social media was far more profitable to scammers in 2021 than any other method of reaching people, the latest report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests.

In 2021, 95,000 people reported losses due to scams they fell for on social media. People 18 to 39 were more than twice as likely as older adults to report losing money to these scams in 2021.

Romance and investment scams topped the list of dollars lost. Regulators saw a massive surge in reports about investment scams, usually involving bogus cryptocurrency investment. More than half of people who reported losses to investment scams in 2021 said the con started on social media.

“People send money, often a cryptocurrency, on promises of huge returns but end up empty-handed,” FTC said.

Romance scams were the second most profitable fraud on social media. More than a third of people who said they lost money to an online romance scam in 2021 said it began on Facebook or Instagram. These scams often start with a seemingly innocent friend request from a stranger, followed by a sweet talk, and then, inevitably, a request for money.

A serial romance scammer was recently jailed in the UK after preying on nearly 700 women. He contacted them through dating and social media sites, claiming to be broke after paying for the funerals of several people who had died in a car accident and asking to lend him money.

Besides Facebook and Instagram, threat actors target victims through popular dating apps, such as Tinder, Bumble, and Grindr. Often, scammers use dating sites and apps to social engineer victims into installing fake cryptocurrency apps.

While investment and romance scams top the list on dollars lost, the largest number of reports came from people who were scammed trying to buy something they saw marketed on social media. According to the FTC, 45% of reports of money lost to social media scams were related to online shopping. In nearly 70% of these reports, people said they placed an order, usually after seeing an ad, but never got the merchandise. Attackers typically target victims through Facebook and Instagram.

Here’s what you can do to stay safe while browsing your favorite social media platforms:

* Limit who can see your posts and information on social media. All platforms collect information about you from your activities, but you can set certain restrictions in the privacy settings.

* 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.

* f 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.”

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