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Tips for avoiding social media scams and fraud

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Posted at 12:05 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 14:05:42-05

The FTC says there's been a huge spike in people losing money from social media scams in recent years.

New numbers from the agency show that there were 18 times as many reports of social media scams in 2021 compared to 2017.

The data also suggests social media was far more profitable to scammers than any other contact method, with fraudsters profiting a total of $770 million.

FTC program analyst Emma Fletcher says investment scams are the most common way people lose money on social media.

"Once someone gives their money to the scammer, the victim may continue investing, thinking they're making money. But when trying to withdraw that money, they can't," she said.

In the meantime, the FTC says it's seeing the most social media scam reports from people who fell for online shopping scams. Most of the reports involved someone who ordered a product from social media that never arrived.

The FTC says scammers can use tools available to advertisers on social media platforms to target their victims. One way consumers can avoid this is by opting out of targeted ads.

Social media users can also change privacy settings to limit who can see their information. Scammers rely on any information users share, so they can be more convincing.

"Before you buy, check out the company," Fletcher said. "Search for the company's name with words like 'complaint' or 'scam' and see what you find. Often, if there's a problem, you'll be able to find information that would steer you away from making that purchase."

Consumers should also consider how a seller is asking them to pay. Scammers often prefer to be paid in gift cards, wire transfers and cryptocurrency.

The FTC has been cracking down on social media advertising by going after companies that make baseless claims around COVID-19 therapies.

It's also helped with enforcement when people report these scams at the agency's website.