MEIER: Why scammers love social media | Local News | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams

More than 25% of people who made reports of losing money through fraud in 2021 said the fraud started on social media. These victims told authorities the fraud started with an advertisement, a post, or some message through social media. A report recently released by the Federal Trade Commission spotlights the use of social media by criminals looking to run successful scams.

The report noted scammers are increasing their use of social media to target victims. Since 2017, the amount of dollars reported lost in fraud involving social media increased by an eye-popping 1,800%. Social media finds itself especially involved in phony investment schemes promoting cryptocurrency, and in romance scams. And while all age demographics are experiencing greater losses, the 18 to 39 demographic looks like it’s taking the biggest hit from social media scams. That younger group fell victim at twice the rate as their senior counterparts.

From a scammer’s point of view, social media offers a lot. It’s very inexpensive and has a worldwide reach. It’s shockingly easy to create a fake profile or persona. But you can also, seemingly without much effort, hack into existing social media accounts, take them over, and send out phony messages to all the “friends”.

This hacking is something I hear of almost daily. People tell me they get a Facebook message from a “friend”. Often, it’s a very distant friend. In the most recent case I looked into, the friend was a classmate from the Class of 1960. The message will alert the recipient of a grant or gift for which the recipient is eligible, if only they will contact an “agent”. You find such agents with bogus profiles, populated with hijacked photographs. Two recent “agent” profiles I investigated showed profile photographs of William Barr, Mr. Trump’s last attorney general, and Brian Williams, the former NBC News anchor.

Can we armor up or shield ourselves from some of this social media exploitation by criminals? You can, and it should help to keep criminals at bay, and as a side benefit, decrease unwanted advertising and general misinformation. Try these things:

• Limit who sees your posts and what can be seen. Remember, social media collects information on all users to sell. Visit your privacy settings to enable restrictions.

• Use strong passwords and high security settings, like two-factor authentication.

• Opt out of targeted advertising, if possible.

• When you get a message from one of your “friends” about a windfall financial opportunity or an urgent need for money, reach out to them outside of social media. When you do, you will find out they got hacked. Never respond directly to such messages.

• Treat anyone who appears on your social media pushing for a romance with a high degree of skepticism. Never send money to someone you have not met in person.

• Unsolicited offers of cryptocurrency investments are a scam. React accordingly.

Although it wasn’t promoted as an investment, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin featured in a recent loss of $900 to a Clinton woman. Abby’s computer locked up. She saw a “helpline number” on the monitor display, and called, putting her in direct touch with the criminals who disabled her computer.

They told Abby someone charged her account to access four child pornography websites, and she needed to pay $1,800 to clear up the charges or expect some police attention. The crooks directed Abby to a Bitcoin kiosk in Camanche, and furnished her with a QR code for use to access a Bitcoin account and deposit the money. Now, Abby didn’t know anything about Bitcoin, or QR codes, or porn sites, but she wanted her computer to work and didn’t welcome police attention, so she followed instructions and lost her money.

If someone is asking you to pay in a currency you don’t understand, take a breath, sit down, and get the advice or opinion of someone else you trust. Taking such a step would likely stop almost all scams.


Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 242-9211, Ext. 4433, or email me at

Randy Meier is the director of Seniors vs. Crime, which operates in conjunction with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.

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