US consumers lost over $930 million to social media scams in 2022

Ruth C. | December 19, 2022

Social media has made our communication much more convenient, allowing us to easily keep in touch with family and friends and connect with like-minded people within a matter of seconds. However, it also made it much easier for cybercriminals to con us.

According to the data presented by the Atlas VPN team, consumers in the United States lost a whopping $931 million to social media scams this year (approximately $3.4 million per day). 

In total, 131,409 social media scams were reported in the first three quarters of 2022. While only approximately a tenth (12%) of reported scams took place on social media, it was the most lucrative channel for fraudsters bringing in more funds than any other medium. 

The numbers are based on the data provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Websites and apps were the second most profitable channels for cybercriminals. Fraudsters looted $692 million via 136,553 scams on websites and apps from Q1 through Q3 of 2022. 

Phone call scams occupy the third spot on the list. FTC recorded 229,494 such schemes in the first three quarters of this year, which brought criminals $590 million. 

Next up is email fraud. Overall, 195,571 such scams were documented in the first three quarters of this year, which cost victims $309 million.

Meanwhile, scams conducted via text messages earned criminals $231 million. Despite occupying the fifth space in terms of losses, text message fraud was the most frequently reported, with 252,647 fraud instances disclosed in Q1 through Q3 of 2022.

Fraudsters also employed online ads and popups in their schemes. While FTC documented only 27,678 such cases, online ads and popup scams brought in $131 million.

Finally, US consumers also reported 25,803 mail scams. Collectively, such scams earned cybercriminals $53 million.

Common social media holiday scams to look out for

Every year, thousands of people fall victim to holiday scams. Here are some common social media scams to look out for this holiday season.

Fake charities. Holidays get people into giving spirits. However, cybercriminals tend to exploit people’s goodwill this time of year by setting up fake charity schemes. In these types of scams, fraudsters often reach out to people directly via social media messages or other channels, posing as someone working for a legit charity. They then ask to donate to support the charitable cause. Scammers also sometimes set up fake charity websites to get you to donate your funds. 

How to protect yourself from charity scams:

  • Make sure to research the organization you are thinking of donating. If you cannot find much information about it or something seems off, better take time and find another more trustworthy one. 
  • Make donations only via trusted platforms. Do not wire funds directly to an individual’s account or use shady third-party donation apps.

Fake shops. In shopping scams, fraudsters set up a fake shop online, where they pretend to sell unique items or, more frequently, imitate well-known brands and offer their products for a fraction of the original price. Some then advertise the items on social media to reach millions of people. According to a survey, almost 50% of social media users have been victims of online shopping scams.

How to avoid fake shop scams:

  • Avoid offers that sound too good to be true, as they usually are. 
  • If you do not know the seller, check their reviews. Chances are someone has already reviewed their service.
  • Stick to the official websites of trusted brands. Inspect the URL, the copy, and the design of the website before shopping. If you find spelling mistakes, low quality graphics, or cannot find sufficient information it may indicate the website you are on is not legitimate. 
  • Only pay using trusted payment methods. Do not wire funds directly to an individual’s account or use gift cards to pay for the purchase, as these methods are popular among scammers.

Gift exchange scams. While online gift exchanges might sound innocent, in all actuality, these types of activities are fraudulent. One such infamous gift exchange cam goes by the name of “Secret Sister.” In this scam, a person must purchase a gift valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister. The participant is then supposed to receive 6-36 gifts in return. In reality, though, few to no people actually receive the gifts. Moreover, such gift exchange schemes are illegal as they are a form of gambling, and their participants could be punished for mail fraud.

How to protect yourself from gift exchange scams:

  • If you receive an invitation to participate in a gift exchange event via social media, simply ignore it. Leave gift exchanges for your actual family and friends. 
  • Protect yourself and others by reporting such posts. To do so, click the three dots in the right-hand corner of the post and select “report post.” 

Have a safe online journey!

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Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.

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Social media scams

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