These days, when it comes to scams, one of the most common reasons people become victims is because they have a lonely heart.
Recently, federal authorities charged 80 people with stealing over $46 million through a network of schemes that targeted anyone looking for love online.
Most of the defendants are Nigerians. According to U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna, “We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history.”
One Japanese woman, lost $200,000 trying to help a man she believed to be a U.S. Army captain in his efforts to get himself out of the Middle East.
The woman met him online and had been emailing him for 10 months. Unfortunately, there was no army captain.
Romance related scams are now the costliest form of social media fraud.
Losses from dating-related fraud ballooned from $33 million lost in 2015 to $143 million lost in 2018.
The number of romance scams reported to the FTC increased to more than 21,000 in 2018, up from 8,500 in 2015.
People targeted by these scams reported an average loss of $2,600, according to the FTC.
In most scenarios, a victim meets someone through a social media or dating website.
The person claims to live far away and asks them to wire money for “emergency” costs such as a hospital bill, a car repair, or even an airline ticket so they can meet.
To avoid these scams, you should clearly never send money or gifts to an online acquaintance you haven’t met in person.
Be cautious of people who don’t want to send you photos of themselves or won’t speak to you the phone.
If the person does send you a photo of themselves, you can do a simple Google Image search to ensure it is not a photo being reused from elsewhere online.
The reality is, when it comes to meeting people online, whether its romantic or for business, you should be skeptical until you’ve met the person face-to-face, and built some trust into the relationship.
In other words, if the person is truly interested in romance, or genuinely wanting to form a business relationship, they aren’t going to put you in an uncomfortable situation.
So, with social media scams at an all time high, I want to share with you the most common types of scams, and how you can protect yourself.
Free gift card. Many social media platforms are inundated with posts claiming to give out free gift cards to popular stores like Walmart, Target and the Cheesecake Factory.
When you click on the offer, you’re taken to a website that asks you to enter your information to claim your winnings.
The information they ask for may vary, but they typically ask for your phone number, as a way to charge you in data fees on your cell phone bill.
The best way to avoid falling victim to these is to remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Photo of you. E-mail phishing scams are well-known to most internet users, and phishing schemes are often seen on social media too.
Typically, people receive a message on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter saying something like, “Have you seen this photo of you?”
Next, the message then links to a page that looks identical to the social media site you are on and prompts you to log in.
This way, the scammers are able to gain access to your account and have your login credentials as well.
Fake job offer. In this type of scheme, users receive a message on social media from someone claiming to be a job recruiter.
The con artist provides the details of a high-paying job and tells the user that they can perform the job duties from anywhere with an internet connection.
The job offer usually ends with the fraudster typically saying that the offer is 100% legitimate.
Of course, when payday comes around, there’s no paycheck to be found.
Usually, these job offers contain links that redirect users to websites that ask them to fill out an application, upload their resume, provide some sensitive personal information such as their Social Security Number and bank account information for direct deposit of their paycheck.
To protect yourself from this type of scam I would stick to using reputable websites, such as Indeed, when it comes to job searching.
Also, if you find a job that asks for personal information you should research the company, and try calling them to confirm the legitimacy of the job opening.
Social networking sites are a useful tool for connecting with family, friends, and co-workers.
However, always remember that like on any website, scammers prowl these platforms for unsuspecting users.
If you choose to build your social media connections, keep an eye out for these types of scams and never share information unless you have met them in person and built some trust.