Older Americans are increasingly active on social media, especially Facebook, which is used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults ages 50 to 64 and half of those age 65 and over, according to 2021 survey data from the Pew Research Center.
But be careful where you click: Fraud is prevalent on popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and getting more so.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 95,000 complaints in 2021 about scams that originated with social media ads, posts or messages, a six-fold increase since 2019. Those incidents cost consumers some $770 million, accounting for a quarter of fraud losses reported to the FTC in 2021 and making social media the most profitable way for scammers to reach consumers, the agency said in a January 2022 report.
Many of these cons simply put a social media spin on older online frauds. Romance scams, fake stores and bogus investments (often involving cryptocurrency) are rife on social networks, according to the FTC. Your social feeds might also be full of fake corporate giveaways, nonexistent government grants, supposed sweepstakes winnings and ads for questionable health aids, intended to get you to send money or click on malware-loaded links.
Crooks are also customizing social media cons for the coronavirus pandemic. They post bogus ads for COVID-19 testing or treatment, or hack Facebook accounts and, disguised as your actual friends or relatives, send out private messages with purported links to urgent health information or pandemic "relief grants."
Other scams are tailored to exploit how we use social media. For example: