Social media scammers stole at least $770 million in 2021

Deepak Gupta January 28, 2022
Updated 2022/01/28 at 2:24 AM

The past year has been a boon for social media scammers, according to a from the FTC. The agency says more than 95,000 people lost $770 million to scammers who found them through social media platforms in 2021. That’s more than double the $258 million they say scammers stole in 2020.

The report does not speculate why there was such a huge increase in 2021, but notes that reports of scams have “increased” over the past five years. It also claims that there has been a “massive increase” in scams related to “fake cryptocurrency investments” and that investment scams accounted for nearly $285 million – more than a third – of the $770 million lost last year.

Romance scams have also “climbed to record highs in recent years,” according to the report. “These scams often start with a seemingly innocent friend request from a stranger, followed by small talk and, inevitably, a request for money,” the FTC says. Scams related to online shopping are also prevalent, most involving “undelivered goods” that were purchased as a result of an advertisement on social media.

It’s worth noting that Facebook and Instagram are the only two platforms mentioned in the report. “More than a third of people who said they lost money in an online romance scam in 2021 said it started on Facebook or Instagram,” the report states. Similarly, the FTC says Facebook and Instagram were the most cited platforms for undelivered goods reporting, with the two apps cited in 9 out of 10 reports where a service was identified.

“We have invested significant resources to combat this type of fraud and abuse,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. “We also go beyond suspending and deleting accounts, Pages and ads. We take legal action against those responsible when we can and we always encourage people to report this behavior when they see it.”

Interestingly, one of the FTC’s recommendations is that users try to opt out of receiving targeted advertising when possible, as scammers can “easily use the tools available to advertisers on social media platforms to systematically target people with fake ads based on personal details.” , such as age, interests, or past purchases.” The agency also recommends that users lock down their privacy settings and be wary of messages asking for money, especially in the form of cryptocurrencies or gift cards.

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