Social media isn’t just for political fights; it’s great for scams too
Social media is a great way to spot a sweet picture of your little niece getting a flu shot or your nephew scoring that big goal in hockey — especially as we try to embrace a new socially-distant lifestyle.
But the scammers know exactly where to find you during the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Social media isn’t just for keeping up with family — or arguing about politics. You suddenly might be scrolling through Facebook one day and spot a way to track down a missing stimulus payment.
Or find a new love of your life. Or a job. Or a great deal on a pair of designer shoes.
And, you might lose plenty of money along the way.
More people are reporting losing money to scams that started on places like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, according to a new report by the Federal Trade Commission.
Such complaints more than tripled in the past year, with a sharp increase in the second quarter of 2020, according to FTC data. Hot scams often involve online shopping, romance scams, and supposed economic relief or income opportunities.
A new way to complain
To better address complaints, the FTC has launched a new website —ReportFraud.ftc.gov — where consumers can report a scam whether they have lost money or not. As part of this new service, the consumer also receives some advice on what to do next when it comes to a particular problem. The site is also in Spanish at ReporteFraude.ftc.gov.
The spike in scams that start on social media is even a bit unsettling for consumer watchdogs.
People reported losing more than $117 million to this type of scam in just the first six months of 2020 compared to $134 million for all of 2019, according to the FTC’s latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight.
“The sheer volume is a bit surprising,” said Emma Fletcher, program analyst and author of the FTC data spotlight report.
Scammers are typically quick on their toes to respond to current events, she said, such as the COVID-19 crisis. Scammers also are very savvy at using the latest technology — such as caller ID spoofing — to appear legitimate.
“But I have been surprised at how dramatic the increase in reports has been for social media and particularly online shopping,” Fletcher said.
“It’s surprising and concerning that they’re able to utilize social media so effectively.”
No, your friend can’t help you get a grant
One hot scam of late that often starts on Facebook or elsewhere involves messages that appear to be from friends suggesting that your friend knows how you can get grant money during the pandemic.
“The friend will say ‘I was able to get this money. Here’s the link. Check it out,’ ” Fletcher said in an interview with the Free Press.
The promise of grant money might look legitimate…