Blog article

Social Media Scams are on the Rise

While you’re doing everything possible to protect your accounts online, could you say the same for your friends and family?

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on social media? If you’d ask most people, they’d probably say, ‘maybe a half hour.’ But the facts are that people are spending around two and a half hours each day scrolling their social media feeds.   This amount of time and attention is incredibly enticing to scammers and criminals.

Social media is an absolute treasure trove for criminals and online scammers. There are 4.62 billion social media users (January 2022), which is over 50% of the world’s population.  With more than 400 million new social media accounts in 2021 alone, it is easy for scammers to find more victims who may not have adequate protections in place.

The ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) reported that in 2021, personal losses due to social media scams were $56 million, an increase of 107% from 2020.  However, the impact of falling for an online scam is often more than financial. Victims can suffer emotional stress, affecting their personal and professional relationships.

How online scammers use social media

Online scammers use various methods to get your information through social media, and spotting them all can be challenging. The more you look through your feeds, the more you’re exposed to scams operating on those platforms.

The information scammers want from you includes your identity, cash transfers, gift cards, habits, and workplace information. The information they gather can be used to get money from you (or others), and scams are becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect.

It’s estimated that up to one-third of all victims do not report their losses, possibly due to feelings of victim blaming or being unaware of the loss. The ACCC regularly reports to social media companies (Facebook, etc.) about reported scams and has made several recommendations for dealing with scam content.

Spotting a social media scam

The scams you’ll see online can be very simple (e.g., the ‘Hi Mum’ scam) or sophisticated and targeted (e.g., fake business profiles). People tend to post personal information online, and scammers will use anything freely available to tailor their scams and increase their odds of success.

Here are a few tips to help you spot and avoid online social media scams.

Fake Business Accounts

When buying from a new business, research and look for genuine reviews, then look at what others are selling the item for, and if the price seems unusually low, then it’s likely a scam website. Scammers creating fake business websites will often use the targeted marketing offered by social media companies to find their victims.

New or cloned profiles

While you’re doing everything possible to protect your accounts online, could you say the same for your friends and family? Scammers often copy and clone profiles and then contact other accounts, claiming it’s a new profile. If you’re contacted by someone you know from a new account, it’s best to check with them through a known contact (phone, email, etc.) before accepting the connection.

What to do if you’re a victim of a social media scam?

It’s easy to feel foolish when you’re the victim of an online scam, especially if you’ve taken all the precautions possible. The first thing you should do is contact your financial institution and report the incident to the authorities. Next, you’ll need to change all your passwords for all your social media accounts.

Never be embarrassed about talking to your friends and family about being scammed. Take some time to identify how the scamming happened and adjust your online protection strategies.

Spreading awareness of online scams will help provide additional protection for you, your community, friends, and family.