If a friend contacts you on Facebook asking to be more than friends, maybe think twice about why they’re not texting — or calling — you instead. Romance fraud is rampant on social media, and it’s gotten even bigger in 2021, according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC found that people lost $770 million from social media fraud in 2021, accounting for one-fourth of all reported losses last year and 18 times more than in reported losses in 2017. Investment scams, romance scams and online shopping fraud accounted for the majority of losses from social media scams last year, the report found. Losses from investment scams often involved crypto, and a big portion of online romance scams reportedly began on Instagram or Facebook, according to the FTC.
The biggest losses came from investment scams, particularly those related to “bogus cryptocurrency investments.”
“People send money, often cryptocurrency, on promises of huge returns, but end up empty handed,” the FTC said. Investment swindles involving crypto on social media don’t even capture the breadth of the problem: Crypto scammers stole almost $8 billion last year.
Romance scams were the second-most profitable fraud on social media, with one-third of people saying the incident began on Facebook or Instagram. The majority of people who reported losses from online shopping scams said the issue began on Facebook or Instagram, too. Nearly half of reports of social media scams last year were related to online shopping, the report states.
It’s hard to know what’s a legitimate message on social media; after all, even debt collectors are allowed to slide into your DMs. But the FTC said there are some ways to limit the chance of falling victim to these scams, whether it be researching a company before buying from them or opting out of targeted advertising.