People Are Losing More Money From Social Media Scams Than Ever Before 

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By Akash Singh

A new report from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that over $2.7 billion has been lost in social media scams since 2021. But because these scams often go unreported, the figure is presumably much more prominent. 

With this in mind, how can you stay safe online? This article will highlight some of the most common social media scams for you to be aware of. 

We’ll highlight the significant red flags to be mindful of and share some cybersecurity tools and tips to help keep you safe online. 

What are the most common social media scams?

The three most common social media scams are: 

Online shopping scams accounted for 44% of social media fraud loss, mainly focused on undelivered goods from Facebook or Instagram adverts. Criminals pretend to be legitimate retailers and lure victims in with heavily discounted prices. 

Investment scams are fake investment opportunities that trick people into sending criminals money, hoping for a significant return. These scams accounted for 20% of reported claims but recorded 53% of total reported losses, suggesting they can be highly effective. 

Romance scams involve a hacker assuming a fake identity to gain the trust and affection of a person to defraud them. They can be both financially and emotionally damaging. 

5 red flags of a social media scam 

While there are a variety of online scams out there, they often share standard features and methods of deception. Be on the lookout for the following: 

1. Sense of urgency 

Social media scams often use time as a weapon, pressuring you to make quick decisions and not think things through. They might use words like “urgent” or “before it’s gone” or highlight that only a certain number of users can avail of an offer.

Scammers want you to buy first and ask questions later. But by that stage, it may be too late. If in doubt, never be pressured into making quick transactions. Instead, research the vendor or advertisement thoroughly. 

2. Too good to be true 

Scammers often use incredible discounts and low price points to get your attention and encourage you to click on links. Unfortunately, these URLs are often fake websites trying to defraud you. 

Be vigilant throughout any transaction, as many scammer websites will have inflated delivery charges to get the maximum amount from you toward the end of the scam. 

3. Impersonation 

Impersonation is a huge part of online scams, where criminals pretend to be legitimate businesses to trick you. They might create replica websites that look and feel like reputable businesses to steal your information and money. 

Always check the website address thoroughly for suspicious letters or domain extensions, and be careful following social media accounts to get to websites. 

Criminals might also pretend to be a loved one in distress and ask you to transfer sums of money quickly to help them. But because these are strangers, they might not know how your loved one speaks or the kind of relationship you both share. 

4. Promising return on investments 

Criminals often send unsolicited investment advice, promising you the best return on your money, with little mention of risks or caveats to a deal. Again, they will use a sense of urgency to encourage you to act fast, with little to no research on the consequences. If these ‘get rich quick’ schemes sound too good to be true, it’s because they are! 

5. Over-eagerness and evasiveness 

Particularly with romance scams, a major red flag will be an over-eagerness to establish a connection with you. They will want to know your private information without being forthcoming. 

They will be evasive when asked if they’d like to meet online or verify their identity through a voice or video call instead of asking you for money for a ticket/equipment.

3 ways to stay protected 

Thankfully, there are many ways of staying safe online, especially against social media scams. They include: 

1. Using a virtual private network (VPN) 

A VPN is a valuable cybersecurity tool that can protect your identity online and prevent you from becoming a victim of a social media scam. So, how does a VPN work? 

Firstly, a VPN encrypts your internet connection, meaning data transferred or received will stay hidden from prying eyes. No one will know where in the world you’re located, nor be able to harvest valuable private information to use in phishing scams. 

Premium VPN providers have several additional cybersecurity features built-in to their services to heighten your protection, including flagging malicious websites and URLs before you visit them and blocking intrusive popups. 

2. Enabling multi-factor authentication 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is essential to securing your finances when buying online. Upon login, you must verify your identity again, usually through single-use codes or in-app confirmation, to gain access to and complete transactions. 

MFA also protects you if you lose your smartphone or your passwords for online banking or payment apps have been compromised. 

3. Limiting your social media information 

Criminals actively search social media and workplace websites for personal information on people to contact with. They’ll use this information to quickly build trust and rapport with you, especially in cases of romance scams. 

You should perform a security check on all your social media platforms to see what information is readily available to strangers online. Consider removing personal information like date of birth, occupation, home addresses, and family members.