Social Media Scams Alert - Scams on Social Media

- Social media sites ask for, and often get, a large amount of personal information from users. Unfortunately, identity thieves may use that information to perpetuate scams, especially if you use personal information when creating security passwords.

If you have a public Facebook profile that gives your birth date and your parents' names and that kind of thing, they can provide the answers to security questions that your bank might have on its Web site. Even if your profile is private, identity thieves may find other ways to get your information.

Spammers, hackers, trying to sell products using fictitious profiles. Be careful about adding social networking "friends" you don't know in real life. And remember, just because a social media site asks for information doesn't mean you have to give it.

*** Never sending money to someone who asks for it over a social media service, there have been reports of scammers hijacking accounts and posing as friends.

Older Americans are increasingly active on social media, especially Facebook, which is used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults ages 50 to 64 and half of those age 65 and over, according to 2021 survey data from the Pew Research Center.

But be careful where you click: Fraud is prevalent on popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and getting more so.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 95,000 complaints in 2021 about scams that originated with social media ads, posts or messages, a six-fold increase since 2019. Those incidents cost consumers some $770 million, accounting for a quarter of fraud losses reported to the FTC in 2021 and making social media the most profitable way for scammers to reach consumers, the agency said in a January 2022 report.

Many of these cons simply put a social media spin on older online frauds. Romance scams, fake stores and bogus investments (often involving cryptocurrency) are rife on social networks, according to the FTC. Your social feeds might also be full of fake corporate giveaways, nonexistent government grants, supposed sweepstakes winnings and ads for questionable health aids, intended to get you to send money or click on malware-loaded links.

Crooks are also customizing social media cons for the coronavirus pandemic. They post bogus ads for COVID-19 testing or treatment, or hack Facebook accounts and, disguised as your actual friends or relatives, send out private messages with purported links to urgent health information or pandemic "relief grants."