US consumers have increasingly become targeted for scams by cybercriminals on social media, according to tens of thousands of reports received by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2021.
In the FTC’s report released last week, over 95,000 Americans reported combined losses of over $770 million after falling victim to scams on social media platforms.
This amounts to around a quarter of all losses to fraud reported in 2021, demonstrating an 18-fold increase over 2017 reported losses and more than double compared to 2020, the FTC said.
“More than one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media with an ad, a post, or a message. In fact, the data suggest that social media was far more profitable to scammers in 2021 than any other method of reaching people,” the FTC said. “It’s a low-cost way to reach billions of people from anywhere in the world. It’s easy to manufacture a fake persona, or scammers can hack into an existing profile to get ‘friends’ to con.”
Most Profitable Social Media Scams
The most financially successful social media scams were those that promoted fraudulent investment opportunities, with over half of reports in 2021 mentioning money and cryptocurrency lost to promises of massive returns.
Romance scams were the second most profitable and successful fraud present on social media after reaching record heights over the past few years.
However, the most significant number of scam reports linked to social media platforms were submitted by consumers who lost money to online shopping scams where the products marketed to them were never delivered.
“In nearly 70% of these reports, people said they placed an order, usually after seeing an ad, but never got the merchandise,” the FTC added.
“Some reports even described ads that impersonated real online retailers that drove people to lookalike websites.”
Most Popular Social Media Scam Platforms
Facebook and Instagram were identified as the most popular social media platforms for investment, romance, and online shopping scams, based on consumer reports to the FTC.
Investment, romance, and online shopping scams accounted for more than 70% of reported social media scams combined in 2021. However, there are many other types of social media fraud out there, with new ones surfacing all the time, according to the FTC.
The FTC concluded its report by sharing tips for consumers to avoid getting scammed on social media by cybercriminals.
In Nov. 2021, the FBI and CISA also alerted American businesses and government organizations to monitor for phishing scams, ransomware, and other cyberattacks that take advantage of worker downtime during Thanksgiving, following multiple cyberattacks during the holidays in years past.