• The Federal Trade Commission reports that people who lost money to scams that started on social media has more than tripled in 2020, with a significant increase in the second quarter of the year. 
  • The increase in social media scams fits the overall 2020 trend of more phishing scams on channels besides email. 
  • Some recent social media scams include romance scamsfake advertisements, and social media messages offering grant money or giveaways. 
  • To reduce the risk of falling for a social media scam, don’t click on any links from unknown messages, do research on any ad seen on social media, and never send money to someone you’ve never met in person. 
  • To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530, or speak with an expert advisor via live-chat on the company website. 

There is an increase of social media scams in 2020, fitting the overall trend of the year of more phishing scams on channels besides email. Scams strike people in many different ways, ranging from robocalls to phishing attacks. While social media websites are another platform scammers use for their attacks, it’s not always the first place people think to monitor when they hear the phrase “phishing scams.” 

Scammers Take Advantage of More People Online During COVID-19 

However, 2020 is different. Social media is already a great place to connect, but especially right now due to COVID-19. More people are using social media, and scammers are aware. In fact, more scammers are hanging out on the sites, posing a greater threat for scams to users. Scammers know COVID-19 changes the way people live, and they try to take advantage in any way possible. 

New Report on Increase in Social Media Scams 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that people who lost money to scams that started on social media has more than tripled in 2020, with a significant increase in the second quarter of the year. The FTC says the growth has been happening for years, reporting social media scam fraud losses of $134 million in 2019.  

However, the first half of 2020 had $117 million in fraud losses from social media scams alone. Some recent social media scams include romance scamsfake advertisements, and social media messages offering grant money or giveaways. Often, scammers create fake profiles of people victims may know to take advantage of them. In some cases, scammers will even take over a real person’s account. 

How to Avoid a Social Media Scam 

Consumers can do a handful of things to reduce their risk of falling victim to a social media scam.  

  1. Check the validity of any ad you see on social media. Do a quick Google search of the supposed business followed by “complaints,” “reviews” or “scam.” This will help you determine whether or not the company has been reported or accused of any suspicious activity. Also, directly search for the company website. Any legitimate company will most likely have contact information on their webpage. 
  1. Never click on a link or open an attachment without verifying the validity of the message or ad. You can do this by directly reaching out to the company to see if they sent the message or posted the ad. If not, it is probably a scam. If you cannot find any contact information for the company, it is probably a scam. 
  1. Reach out directly by phone or email to the friend or family member asking for money or personal information. If they did not send the message, the sender’s account was probably hacked. 
  1. Never send money or personal information to someone you have never met in person. Imposter scams, where scammers try to trick people into giving up personal information or money by posing as someone fake, continue to rise throughout the country.  
  1. Regularly check your privacy settings on all of your social media platforms. Make it more challenging for scammers to target you by limiting what you share online. 

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center 

Consumers should be aware of the 2020 trend around scams and that scammers will continue to hang out in the social media space. However, if everyone does their part, they can still enjoy the platforms with minimal risk of falling for a social media scam.  

To learn more, or if you believe you are the victim of a social media scam, reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. Also, download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help app for access to additional resources. 

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Unsolicited phone calls with recorded messages, known as robocalls, have been a nuisance probably since the invention of the telephone. And they’re getting worse. In fact, in a single one-month period this year, there were more than 4.7 billion robocalls placed to U.S. phone numbers. While the telemarketers of yesteryear were certainly annoying, today’s threat is far more dangerous. Robocalls, which some consumers report can occur at all hours of the day and night, may actually be decreasing in number. However, the amount of money that victims lose to phone scammers is higher than ever.

“But I am on the Do Not Call List. Why am I still getting these phone calls?”

If you have put your phone number on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call registry and you still receive robocalls, that should be your sign that the call is not real. With that said, there are exceptions to the rule. Charities and political campaigns are still permitted to contact you, as are companies you do business with.

“But my caller ID said it was the Social Security Administration!”

It’s okay to be skeptical of your caller ID screen. It is easy for the scammer to change the appearance of the number they are calling from. They can put any phone number or name on your screen in order to entice you to pick up.

“But they said I was in trouble with the police and about to lose my healthcare coverage.”

No matter what story the robocaller gives, ignore it.

The IRS does not call you to inform you about your back taxes or penalties.

The police will not call you about a warrant for your arrest.

Your granddaughter was kidnapped? Try calling them first.

If you are ever in doubt about any situation like this, hang up and contact the company directly. Take down the caller’s information first, including their name, company or agency and employee or agent number they have, the phone number they are calling from and anything else that might be helpful. Then contact that organization directly using a verified phone number. You will quickly find out that no one by that name works there, your account is perfectly fine or your nephew is not in jail. If you do discover that something was legitimately wrong, you can handle it through the proper channels.

“But the caller said that I owe money!”

You will never receive a legitimate phone call in which you must make a payment immediately. It will always be a robocall. Even something like a call from your credit card company or utility company might be a courtesy reminder that you are past due. However, you will never be required to pay over the phone. The IRS and the Social Security Administration, two common scam targets, do not accept phone payments when someone calls you.

“I think I really do have to pay them. Where do I buy an iTunes gift card?”

Never make a payment of any kind with an iTunes gift card unless you own an Apple device and you are buying an app or song. iTunes gift cards, prepaid debit cards and wire transfers are all common tools for scammers, no matter who they claim to work for. They take the information from the card you bought, drain all the money and you cannot get it back no matter what you do. There is no such thing as a legitimate transaction that must be paid for with one of these methods.

“Okay, you have convinced me. So how do I make it stop?”

Fortunately, there are steps the government is working on to crack down on robocalls. Until the miracle cure for this dangerous nuisance appears, there is one thing you can do: ignore the call. Do not answer and hang up, either, since some of the software robocallers use is to track whether or not their potential victim has a working phone number. Answering the call and hanging up will only confirm that the number is good. Also, if you do answer and discover it is a robocall or possible scam, simply hang up. You might offend the caller, but the caller is breaking the law by contacting you in the first place. Do not put yourself at risk to avoid upsetting a criminal.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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