FTC reports surge of social media scams amid COVID-19 pandemic

There has been a spike in complaints about scams originating on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, amidst the boom of online shopping during the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Reported losses in the first six months of 2020 reached a record total of $117 million to scams that started on social media, the FTC said on Wednesday. The top sources of the complaints were online sellers that did not deliver, romance scammers and fake phone calls asking for financial assistance.

More than 25 percent of all reports about scams that started on social media in the first half of the year were attributed to online commerce businesses that received payment, but did not deliver.

People also reported to the FTC a high volume of direct messages over social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram, that pretended to offer monetary grants in light of the pandemic — but were actually trying to get money, personal information, or both.

To combat the social media scams, the FTC gave recommendations on how to make it harder for scammers to attack. Among the tips were to review social media privacy settings and limit what is publicly shared, research a company and its products before purchase, and slow down in forming sudden relationships over social media.

The FTC also encourages those who have spotted a scam to report it to the social media site and the FTC’s official fraud report website.