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How do Social Media Scams work?

February 10, 2023 4 min

Given the popularity of social media, it’s little surprise that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that social media was the most profitable way for fraudsters to reach their victims. More than 95,000 people reported about $770 million in losses due to social media fraud in 2021. To stay safe online, learn how to protect yourself from these popular social media scams.

Be especially cautious with seemingly harmless quizzes on social media: some questions are crafted to get you to reveal personal information.”

Popular social media scams

  • Social media phishing occurs on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Fraudsters create fake posts and profiles to tempt you into sharing personal information on a fake website. For example, a post may offer government benefits or deep discounts on expensive products, or it may request a charitable donation. And be especially cautious with seemingly harmless quizzes: some questions are crafted to get you to reveal personal information.

  • Online shopping scams are the most common type of scam reported to the FTC. They rely on social media to advertise and sell products that either never arrive in your mailbox or end up being fake or of low quality.

  • Investment scams use social media to promote bogus investment opportunities, especially fake cryptocurrency investments. Scammers may pose as friends to encourage investing. Investors send in money or cryptocurrency, hoping to make it big — but the victims always end up empty handed.

  • Romance scams use social media profiles to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer may make grand statements or even propose marriage, but they will typically never agree to meeting in person. Eventually, they ask for money to fly and see you, to cover unexpected legal fees or medical expenses – beware of any story where they suddenly need money.

    The FBI also cautions that if someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, they’re most likely using your account to carry out other theft and fraud schemes.

  • Money requests on social media are sent from hacked accounts so they seem like the request is coming from a friend or loved one.

  • Job scams prey on people looking to make money working from home. The fraudster will advertise high-paying jobs on social media, but instead of earning a paycheck, victims end up paying for starter kits, fake training programs or useless certifications.

How to avoid social media scams

Here are some ways you can protect yourself and your family on social media.

  • Go to your privacy settings and restrict who can see your posts and personal details on social media.
  • Opt out of targeted advertising if the platform allows.
  • If a friend messages you about an opportunity or urgent need for money, call them to see if their account was hacked. Scammers will often ask you to pay by cryptocurrency, gift card or wire transfer.
  • If you meet someone on social media, go slow. Don’t rush into a friendship or romance. Read up on romance scams and never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • Before making a purchase, research the company. Search for the business name plus “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Create strong passwords for each of your accounts and turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) if available.
  • Keep personal information, such as your birth date, address and phone number, private.

Who to contact if you're the victim of a social media scam

If you spot a scam, report it to the FTC. If you’re the victim of a social media scam, contact trusted resources for reporting fraud and scams.

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