Scammers took $770 million from people online in 2021, FTC says

Shopping Online This Holiday Season? Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself
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While millions of Americans will be looking for the best deals the internet has to offer, cyber criminals will be hard at work looking to target online shoppers.

If you like to scroll on social media and buy something here or there — be extra careful. Last year, scammers took $770 million from people online, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Most reports stemmed from online shopping.

“About one in four people who reported losing money to fraud last year said it started on social media,” said Emma Fletcher, senior data researcher at the Federal Trade Commission.

Out of the $770 million taken, most of that went to investment scams, specifically fake cryptocurrency investments.

Not far behind: romance scams. It’s a little bit like catfishing.

“Once you’re attached to that person and you trust them, they just sort of casually drop, ‘Oh, I’m really great at investing. I can teach you how to invest in cryptocurrency,’” Fletcher explained.

She says scammers tend to prefer cryptocurrency since it’s hard to get money back.

“It’s a lot more sophisticated now where they’re asking people to transfer money for them,” Fletcher said.

A lot of people reported online shopping scams, meaning someone bought something and didn’t get what they paid for. Most of the reports said the product was marketed on Facebook and Instagram.

“If they paid with a credit card, which they often do, that they do have some protection there,” Fletcher said.

To avoid scams like these, there are a couple of things you can do.

“If you get a message from a friend about an opportunity or some urgent need for money — call them. Make sure it’s really them,” Fletcher explained. “Their account may have very well been hacked.”

Change your privacy settings so only certain people can see your posts. It’ll lower your chances of being targeted. If you’re buying something online, do your research.

“Check the company out, search for its name maybe with words like scam or complaint,” Fletcher said.

If you have been scammed or spot one online, report it to the FTC.

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