Social media provides a platform to connect with friends during the pandemic. But data from the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network suggests that social media websites and apps have become popular hangouts for scammers, too. According to the FTC, reports that people lost money due to social media scams more than tripled in the past year, with a sharp increase in the second quarter of 2020.
In 2019, total reported losses to social media scams reached $134 million. But reported losses reached record highs, climbing to nearly $117 million in just the first six months of 2020. In that time, the reported social media scams often related to online shopping, romance scams and supposed economic relief.
- Online shopping. Online shopping scams occur when cybercriminals create illegitimate shops and trick victims into paying for products that are never delivered. Attackers can make realistic ads that are carefully targeted to reach a particular audience. They can even delete comments on these ads so that negative responses don’t show up and alert people to the con.
- Romance scams. Romance scams typically start with a social media message or friend request. They often target people who are on dating sites. In Q2 of 2020, 2,621 people reported a monetary loss on a romance scam, a 19% increase over the previous quarterly high.
- Economic relief. Economic relief scams offer so-called relief to people in need of cash. Scammers pretend to provide grant money and other giveaways, supposedly to help people during the pandemic. Messages can even come from friends who may have been hacked or don’t know the offer is a scam.
Cybercriminals continue to use the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of social media users. As always, be mindful when using social media for business or personal use.
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Some of the information used in this article was provided by our partners at KnowBe4.