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According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), nearly 95,000 people reported being a victim of a social media scam in 2021. And, as with any scam, it typically meant significant financial losses, given that many social media scammers focus on the types of frauds that they can monetize quickly and easily. Simply by clicking on a single ad or message on a social media site, you might be putting yourself at risk, so here are some of the most popular scams to recognize.
#1: Fake sites claiming to be real sites
How many times have you received a text message or WhatsApp message, claiming that your subscription service has been canceled, your bank account closed, or your online account compromised by hackers? According to the message, all you have to do is click on a link, verify some personal data, and everything will be fixed. The big catch here, of course, is that the link is completely fraudulent. Instead of a real site, it will direct you to a site where hackers can capture vital details they will need to compromise your personal accounts. The big watch-out here is to never click on a link you don’t recognize.
#2: Charity scams
Another favorite social media scam is the so-called “charity scam.” In this scam, someone will set up a fraudulent GoFundMe page, make up a completely fake story, and get you to donate to a completely fake cause. Typically, these fake GoFundMe campaigns revolve around hot news stories or ongoing media narratives. Thus, for example, you can expect these fraudsters to pop up anytime there’s a natural disaster. Recently, the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic have been popular frauds. So, be careful about donating to any cause where the recipient is not a charity that you recognize.
#3: The romance scam
Social media is rife with the romance scam, which often features beautiful ladies in foreign countries who need your “help” to visit you and go on a date with you. Once you send them the money for airfare (or whatever they’re asking), you’ll never hear from them again. But don’t feel too bad about it – that “young beautiful lady” you were so intent on dating was probably a middle-aged man who’s part of an organized crime gang. Big holidays like Valentine’s Day are especially popular for these scams, because that is when people are the most vulnerable (at least, emotionally). So be wary of social media around these days.
#4: The fake investment scam
Finally, one scam to watch out for is the fake investment scam. In this type of scam, you’ll be asked to invest in a financial asset with zero or negligible value. Of late, these fake investment scams have involved cryptocurrencies because, after all, who can resist making 1000X on their money by doing little or no work? The good news here is that the SEC appears to be cracking down on social media influencers who are perpetrating these scams. So be aware of any social media ad you see promising you will become a millionaire overnight.
Safeguard your social media profiles
The easiest way to protect against these scams is by safeguarding your social media profiles. Decline friend requests from people you don’t recognize and ignore anyone who asks you for money via social media (no matter how much their story tugs at your heart strings). Also, take advantage of multi-factor authentication. That way, scammers won’t be able to access your social media accounts unless they also possess your phone. By taking just these simple steps, you can avoid being one of the nearly 100,000 Americans every year who fall victim to social media scams.