Social media is home to scammers, misleading advertisements and the door to accessing billions of people within minutes. Once only used as a form of communication, social media now significantly affects how people make and spend their money. Regarding online shopping, social media should be the last place to look for reliable purchases. Anyone with access to a phone can sell or make a profit online. Since social media has scams, users should be on the lookout and monitor their accounts closely.

TikTok phone

Photo of an individual using TikTok on their phone.

How you may get scammed

Falling into a scammer's trap is easier than one may think. Scammers have a well-developed knowledge of what sells. On social media, everything is open to the public eye. They have access to any personal details that are posted publicly online, and they have the tools necessary to attract consumers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, over 95,000 people lost about $770 million to social media fraud in 2021. 

The first step is noticing the common red flags among these false advertisements.

Scammers will mimic or impersonate other well-known brands to gain attention and remain relevant. It is concerning how believable these ads are portrayed. Active social media users report purchasing items immediately after seeing the advertisements and waiting for months on end for them to arrive. One common tactic is the selling point that there is an amazing sale going on, and you can receive exclusive deals.

Let's be honest; who doesn't love a good deal? The ads will say that these deals are limited-time only. They will create advertisements on apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Marketplace to get any attention they can. Consumers wonder why these ads keep popping up and consider this a sign to purchase the product.

In particular, online romance scams have gained popularity on Instagram. Many have reported receiving a "follow" from someone online that turns out to be someone completely different. They will start by direct messaging compliments and sweet talking their way to get to know you more. Some might even reel you in with a job opportunity. These romance scams want you to build trust in them before running away with your money. The biggest warning sign in a romance scam is that they tend to use rushed emotions, guilt-tripping you with tragic stories and will start with small requests for money. 

The consequences of being captured by these scams are extensive. It is difficult to trace back the ad or scammer after money is lost. Most credit card companies will reimburse you for theft or fraud, but that is not the case if you use a debit card. Damage to self-esteem and confidence can also result from romance scams. Aside from financial and emotional grief, scammers receive access to any personal information that you might have submitted through their fraudulent websites. 

How to avoid scams

There are many ways to avoid scams and false advertising on social media. Doing a little research before entering your card information and pressing submit does not hurt. Start with looking for product reviews or finding ways to contact the company. Alternatively, stick to purchasing products from trusted brands you or others have used.

Try not to purchase immediately and always question the legitimacy of the advertisement. Look for "click bait" marketing with flashy and trendy visuals to disguise a scam. If you can opt out of targeted advertising in your settings, activate it. Trust your gut and restrict people you do not know from any personal information you might have on social media. If you get scammed, report the crime and educate yourself and others around you.

Social media apps have an endless list of scammers that know how to reach their targets. It is important that we, as users, are cautious when coming across false advertisements and do not fall into a scammer's trap.