80% of all online scams targeting their customers originated from a Meta platform
British bank TSB released a shocking statistic last month – 80% of all online scams targeting their customers originated from a Meta platform. According to their research, there are three key scams: purchase, impersonation and investment fraud.
These online scams use three of Meta’s most popular services to target victims: Facebook Marketplace, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Beware Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace has become an incredibly useful tool for people looking to buy and sell items. But with such a large potential audience, the website is also a magnet for scammers.
The most popular fraud is to simply sell items that don’t exist using a fake Facebook account. The scammer accepts payment and then disappears with their victim’s money. According to TSB, 60% of all purchase fraud cases reported by their customers are because of Facebook Marketplace fraud.
By far the world’s most popular instant messaging app, WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users across the world. Or 2 billion potential victims of cybercrime.
The most popular, and effective WhatsApp fraud is known as an ‘impersonation scam’. Victims receive a message from someone pretending to be a friend or family member who needs money urgently to resolve an emergency, such as medical treatment, to pay an unexpected bill or some other immediate problem. If their victim sends money, the scammer simply disappears.
It is possible to make a fortune on the stock market – if you know what you are doing. Many scammers are now using Instagram to connect with potential victims who want to invest and make a profit.
Known as ‘money flipping’, scammers will advertise their low-cost investment expertise on Instagram. Victims are encouraged to make a bank transfer which the scammer will invest on their behalf – and major profits are guaranteed to follow. The problem is that once the transfer is made, the scammer disappears with the cash. TSB estimate that 67% of all investment fraud experienced by their customers is committed using Instagram.
How to stay safe
Meta’s platforms – Facebook Marketplace, WhatsApp and Instagram – are indispensable for most people. They could not stop using these services even if they wanted to. So instead, we need to be a bit smarter about how we use them.
In most cases, you can spot a scam by taking a few minutes to consider what you are seeing and asking yourself some simple questions:
- Is the deal too good to be true? – If you see an item for sale online at an unusually low price, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. Contact the buyer and ask if you can see the item ‘in real life’ before making payment – if they refuse, they are probably a scammer.
- Does my friend really need money? – Call your friend or family member to check if they are really in trouble before sending money. It is highly likely that your contacts are fine – and that the urgent message is just a scammer.
- Should I trust this person? – Investments can be extremely risky, and giving money to people on Instagram is downright dangerous. Always carefully research your investment options before making bank transfers – and don’t forget to ask advice from a professional (like your bank) first.
It’s worth remembering that these tips also work for any online service – not just Meta.