February 24, 2024

Scammers are hiding in plain sight on social media platforms and reports to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network point to huge profits. One in four people who reported losing money to fraud since 2021 said it started on social media.[1] Reported losses to scams on social media during the same period hit a staggering $2.7 billion, far higher than any other method of contact. And because the vast majority of frauds are not reported, this figure reflects just a small fraction of the public harm.[2]

Social media gives scammers an edge in several ways. They can easily manufacture a fake persona, or hack into your profile, pretend to be you, and con your friends. They can learn to tailor their approach from what you share on social media. And scammers who place ads can even use tools available to advertisers to methodically target you based on personal details, such as your age, interests, or past purchases. All of this costs them next to nothing to reach billions of people from anywhere in the world.

Reports show that scams on social media are a problem for people of all ages, but the numbers are most striking for younger people. In the first six months of 2023, in reports of money lost to fraud by people 20-29, social media was the contact method more than 38% of the time.  For people 18-19, that figure was 47%.[3] The numbers decrease with age, consistent with generational differences in social media use.[4]

The most frequently reported fraud loss in the first half…

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