In 2021, more than 95,000 Americans told the Federal Trade Commission that they’d been scammed with a con that started on social media. In fact, more than one in four people who reported to the FTC that they lost money to any scam said the transaction started with a post, an ad, or a message on a social media platform. And the losses amounted to about $770 million.
Americans reported losing the most money to investment scams (particularly those involving bogus cryptocurrency investments) and romance scams. More than a third of the Americans who lost money to romance scams said it started on Facebook or Instagram.
The largest number of reports came from people who lost money trying to buy something they saw marketed on social media. Most said they didn’t get what they paid for, while some reported ads that impersonated a real online retailer. Reports of social media fraud increased for all age groups in 2021, but people 18 to 39 were more than twice as likely to report losing money than older adults.
Scammers trying to get your money are always looking for new ways to reach people. And they’ll use whatever they know about you to target their pitch. Here are a few actions you can take to protect yourself, no matter which social media platform you use:
- Try to limit who can see your posts and information on social media. Of course, all platforms collect information about you from your activities on social media, but visit your privacy settings to set some restrictions.
- Check if you can opt out of targeted advertising. Some platforms let you do that.
- If you see urgent messages from a “friend” asking for money, stop. It could be a hacker behind that post pretending to be your friend.
- Check out a company before you buy. Read Shopping Online for advice.
- Don’t deal with a vendor that requires payment by cryptocurrency, gift card, or wire transfer. That’s sure to be a scam.
If you see or experience scam on social media, report it to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
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- Ask students if they, their friends or relatives have been scammed on social media. If so, what have been their experiences?
- Ask students to make a list of actions they might take to protect themselves from social media scams.
- Why do many people fall victims to scammers? What can they do to protect themselves?
- What can the federal, state, and local governments do to protect consumers from scams?