Last year was a bad one for scams that took place over social media. On Jan. 25, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a data spotlight report that claimed that consumers lost around $770 million to social media-related scams in 2021.
Around 95,000 cases of fraud originated from either a social media ad, post, or message, accounting for more than a quarter of all reported frauds last year, according to reports made to the FTC. The numbers suggest that social media was the most profitable way for scammers to reach their victims.
For comparison, scams from websites or apps cost consumers around $554 million, and scams from phone calls cost $546 million.
The number of cases for these types of fraud was 18 times higher in 2021 compared to 2017. Scams infiltrated all age groups, but it appears that those from 18 to 39 were “more than twice as likely as older adults to report losing money to these scams in 2021,” the report said.
The most profitable strategies for social media frauds, accounting for most dollars lost, promised fake romance and big returns on bogus investments—scammers asked for payment through payment apps, cryptocurrencies, bank transfers, and gift cards. But the most common, accounting for 45 percent of reports, were online shopping scams.
The report listed Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram as the top platforms for scams. Social media has made it easy for criminals to reach people, because they can acquire sensitive information to personalize their approach.
The FTC recommends that to avoid scams, consumers should limit the visibility of their online profile and opt out of targeted ads if possible. Other tips include double checking that the person contacting you is who they say they are, never sending money to people you haven’t met in person, and conducting a simple search on the reputations of companies and websites before you buy products from them.