TLDR: The fact that there are more tech-savvy people around does not mean that the number of victims of social media scams is decreasing. The number of users who reported being scammed through sites like Facebook and Twitter reached a record 95,000 last year, with total losses reaching a whopping $770 million, according to new data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
FTC writes that 25% of all reported fraud losses in 2021 were related to social media platforms. The most recent figures indicate an eighteenfold increase in losses compared to 2017, but they are likely to be much higher as many people are too embarrassed or ashamed to report fraud.
Fraudsters love social media. The sites offer many ways to swindle people out of money and are a cheap way to reach out to billions of potential victims. Many criminals use personal information that is publicly available on platforms and they can target people with fraudulent ads that are nudged towards those who have certain interests or belong to a certain demographic.
Of the $770 million stolen by the scammers, the majority (37%) was lost through investment fraud. Fake cryptocurrency schemes remain a popular way to steal people’s money, and many have fallen due to NFT sales that have proven to be a downside.
Romantic scams were responsible for the second largest (24%) number of reported losses. These scams have been around for decades, but their popularity has skyrocketed with the rise of social media. This is also a scam that most people are too ashamed or embarrassed to report.
While investment and romance scams were the most profitable, the highest number of scam-related reports (45%) in 2021 were related to online shopping scams. These are usually fake website ads that social media users click on before ordering a product that was never delivered.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends several ways to limit your chances of falling victim to social media scams: limit your privacy settings, opt out of targeted advertising (if possible), beware of suspicious messages from friends who may have been hacked, read company reviews before buying anything, rather than having affairs with strangers and sending them money.