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Unfriend These Scams

By Ashleigh, K-Staff

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Have you clicked on a link on Facebook and bought a really cool product, only for that product to never appear? Have you seen posts from friends touting a “Secret Sister” gift exchange and wondered if there was a catch? Or gotten a message from a friend claiming to have an embarrassing video of you?

Social media has played a pivotal role in staying connected to family and friends during the pandemic. But according to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, social media has served as fertile ground for scammers. These examples are just a few of the hot scams running rampant on social media sites during this pandemic.

Social media makes it incredibly easy for scammers to hide their identity—or even pretend to be someone else—while providing access to an extremely wide network of potential targets. And the angles are nearly limitless.

One avenue that saw incidents skyrocket during the pandemic is e-commerce sites that don’t deliver the product, and nearly one-quarter of the reports involve a social media hook. And in reports that mention a specific platform, 94% mention Facebook or Instagram.

Social media is a particularly popular outlet for romance scams—in fact, more people than every have reported losing money to romance scams. And half of all romance scams since 2019 involve social media in some form.

Unemployment was a major symptom of the pandemic and related restrictions on business nationwide. As more and more citizens lost jobs or were forced to quit to take care of children home from school, multi-level marketing companies provide what seems like an easy way to earn money from home. Many recruiters offer too-good-to-be-true earnings, which is always a red flag of employment scams. The fact is, some MLM companies are pyramid schemes; and even ones that aren’t rarely see their “employees” striking it rich. In fact, most people who join an MLM make little or no money with it.

And social media groups, such as those found on Facebook, have become a hot target of scammers. Those in groups tend to trust the group’s members—a scammer who has become one of the group has an easy time finding targets.

How can you keep yourself safe from the multitude of scams and pitfalls on social media? According to the FTC:

  • Before you buy based on an ad or post, check out the company. Type its name in a search engine with words like or “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Never send money to a love interest you have not met in person.
  • If you get a message from a friend about a way to get some financial relief, call them. Did they forward it to you? If not, tell them their account may have been hacked. If so, check it out before you act.
  • Before paying into an “opportunity” to earn money, check out ftc.gov/mlm.
  • Don’t make it easy for scammers to target you – check your social media privacy settings to limit what you share publicly.

If you spot a scam, report it to the social media site and the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.  

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