ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media expose users to a variety of ever-changing scams, and the associated losses are reaching record highs.
During the first six months of this year, victims reported losing an unprecedented amount of nearly $117 million to scams that started on social media, the Federal Trade Commission says.
The biggest group of reports to the FTC involved online sellers who never delivered the items ordered.
Next came romance scams. About half of such scams reported since 2019 began on social media – usually Facebook or Instagram, the FTC’s data show.
Other social media-related complaints involved messages offering supposed grants or financial relief from the pandemic. The real motive behind these is an effort to get money and/or personal information.
Spotting these can be tricky because fraudsters can take over the account of someone you trust or join a virtual community – part of an effort to look legitimate.
Make it harder for the scammers to dupe you by doing the following, the FTC advises:
• Take a look at your privacy settings so information you share publicly is limited.
• Check out an ad or post hawking a product by searching the company name with such words as “scam” or “complaint.”
• If someone appears on your social media account and pushes to start a friendship or romance, that’s a red flag. Hallmarks of a romance scam are when the supposed suitor wants you to pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses, a gambling debt or a visa and other travel documents. Usually they want you to do it by wire or gift card.
• If a friend sends a social media message about financial relief or a grant, call them. Their account might have been hacked.
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Also spreading on social media is the Subway rewards Facebook fraud in which you get nothing but ripped off if you follow its instructions, according to Scam Detector.
One example: “Hello, everyone! I am one of the managers at Subway, and I’ve some fantastic news – Every single person who has shared and then commented by 12 PM Thursday will be sent one of these boxes containing a $25 Subway gift-card plus surprises that will make your heart flutter. After visit.”
Below this ungrammatical message is a link to a website to “validate your entry.” (Similar fake ads might name other companies or gift card amounts.)
If you follow the link, you will be taken to a page where you will have to fill out a form that asks for private information about yourself and, in some cases, an accompanying questionnaire.
“By filling out this Subway Rewards Facebook survey, you just (sent) affiliate marketing income to scammers, who get paid by commission for those who fill out these forms,” Scam Detector says.
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Two phone scams making the rounds, according to the FTC:
• Someone texts a picture of your child or a relative – presumably taken from a social media account -with frightening images and a threat that the scammer knows where you live and will harm your family unless you pay them money.
• An imposter pretending to be from a government agency says your immigration status is being revoked and deportation is under way unless you pay.
Both are fake.
Contact Ellen Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.