STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A recent study has ranked 10 social media apps and platforms where people are being scammed online the most in 2021 — with Facebook coming in at No. 1.
The top 10 consists of two social media platforms, two messenger services, one popular online game and five dating apps.
SocialCatfish.com released the state of Internet Scams 2021 study using data from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) . A record $4.2 billion was lost to increasingly sophisticated online scams in 2020. New York is the No. 2 most-scammed state with victims losing $415 million, according to the data.
Scammers have grown more sophisticated, attacking people where they least expect it, the online investigative service warns.
Researchers also included proprietary survey results after polling about 722 members of the Facebook group from SocialCatfish.com called Social Catfish (SCF) Seekers. This group is comprised of Facebook users who have been scammed out of money.
According to the study, the top 10 apps include: Facebook, with 152 victims; Google Hangouts. with 99 victims; Instagram, with 80; WhatsApp and Plenty of Fish had 50 each. Match, OurTime, Zoosk, Words With Friends and Tinder round out the top 10.
SocialCatfish offers these tips to avoid the top scams:
1) Facebook, Account Cloning: Scammers use the photos and information on your public profile to create a replica account. They ask your friends and family for money and send them malicious links that, if clicked, can steal their personal and financial information leading to identity theft and financial ruin.
How to Avoid: Search for yourself regularly on the app and in search engines. If you become aware of a clone account, warn your friends and family, and report it to Facebook’s support center immediately.
2) Google Hangouts, Romance Scam: Romance scammers meet victims on dating apps — but to avoid being kicked off those apps, they move the conversation to Google Hangouts. They fall in love with you quickly, gain your trust and begin asking for money and personal information until you have nothing left.
How to Avoid: If a suitor on a dating app wants to switch platforms, be on alert and never send money.
3) Instagram, Fake Brand Giveaways: Scammers pretend to be a respected brand offering free product giveaways. You sign up and give personal information, but never receive a product and wind up with an empty bank account instead.
How to Avoid: Research and make sure it is the brand’s official Instagram account before participating.
4) WhatsApp, Hijack Scam: If you receive a six-digit verification code without requesting one, be on alert. Scammers, who already hijacked your friends account, send you the code and say they need it to get back into their account. You unwittingly send them the code, allowing them to hijack your account. Then they ask your contacts for money and replicate the scam by pretending to be you and asking others for the code.
How to Avoid: WhatsApp says it will never send you a code for someone else. If one of your contacts asks about a code, it is a scam.
5) Plenty of Fish, Romance Scam: Scammers lurk on this dating app, using photos of good-looking models to lure victims. They claim to work overseas or be in the military to explain why they cannot meet in person, and they leave victims with an empty bank account and a broken heart.
How to Avoid: Never send money to anyone you have never met in person.
If you are the victim of a scam, or attempted scam, report it to the FTC, IC3, FBI and IdentityTheft.gov.