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Putting the (Anti) Social in Social Media

The use of social media continues to grow, and so do the scams that are perpetrated on it. Read on for the latest in scammers’ social media tactics.  

Romance Scams

Dating scams aren’t limited to dating sites and apps. Many occur on popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, and on game platforms, such as Words with Friends. The Federal Trade Commission reported a fourfold increase in romance scams between 2019 and 2020. The hardest-hit victims? People 70 and older, who suffered a median loss of $9,475.

The typical romance scam starts online with light conversation and then progresses to a request to move off the platform to a private channel, like email or a text app. Time goes by — days, weeks, months, even years — and the scammers (it’s usually many working together) convince the target that the relationship is real and that they will be together one day. This is despite never having met in person — blame it on COVID, or a military deployment, or a business venture in a faraway country. Then comes the emergency request for money — by wire transfer or gift cards typically, but it’s not just a onetime request. The scam only ends when (and if) the target finally realizes it as such.

Red flags: An online profile that’s almost too good to be true; a request to leave the platform for email or text messaging; something that prevents meeting in person; an urgent request for money.

For more information: Visit the romance scams tip sheet on the AARP Fraud Resource Center.

The “Is This You?” Scam

You receive a direct message Facebook Messenger that says something like, “Is this you in this video?” It will contain a link to the alleged video. The link takes you to a page that will install malware on your device or steal your Facebook login credentials. Other social media platforms with direct messaging are subject to these scams as well.

Red flags: A direct message with a link and a question or statement that makes you curious enough to want to click on in order to learn more.

For more information: Visit the social media scams tip sheet on the AARP Fraud Resource Center.

COVID Scams

Scammers have been using social media sites to sell things like phony COVID-19 treatments or expedited vaccine access. They reach out by social media or other platforms, claiming to be a contact tracer with a warning that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. Their goal is to convince you to share sensitive personal information (Social Security number, for example) or money. 

Red flags: An offer for hard-to-get products, like a COVID-19 vaccine or personal protective equipment; an electronic message from a “contact tracer” with a link to click or tap on; a request to share sensitive personal information.

For more information: Visit the coronavirus scams page on the AARP Fraud Resource Center.

Knowledge gives you power over scams. The AARP Fraud Watch Network equips you with reliable, up-to-date insights and connects you to our free fraud helpline so you can better protect yourself and loved ones. We also advocate at the state, federal and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and to enforce laws. 

P.S. Are you active on social media? Do you enjoy sharing information that can help friends and family to spot and avoid scams? Become a volunteer AARP Fraud Watch Network (FWN) Digital Fraud Fighter! Interested? Send us a note at FWN@aarp.org for more information.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.