The Worst Social Media Scams of 2022 & How To Avoid Them

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Yaniv Masjedi

Organic Growth at Aura

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    Do You Know How To Spot a Social Media Scammer?

    After Georgina’s husband passed away, she turned to Facebook to feel more connected to her family. Soon after joining, she received a friend request from a man named “Jim” — an attractive stranger who was serving in the military overseas [*]. 

    The two hit it off, quickly building an online relationship. Jim had dreams of oneday opening a gemstone business after his current service duty ended. But as that date drew closer, he started having serious legal troubles. He needed money to get home — and Georgina was more than happy to help.

    When her family and the police finally found out what was going on, it was too late. There was no “Jim” — only a scammer to whom Georgina had sent more than $100,000.  

    Social media provides prime hunting grounds for scammers. 

    Last year, one out of every four fraud victims said the scam started with either a social media direct message (DM), ad, or post — with fraud losses hitting $770 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [*]. 

    If you or a loved one use social media, you need to be more vigilant than ever to avoid scams. 

    In this guide, we’ll cover how social media scams work, how to quickly identify a scammer on social media, and 10 of the latest scams to watch out for. 

    What Are Social Media Scams? How Do People Get Scammed on Social Media?

    Social media scams are a type of fraud that is committed on social networking sites. Scammers often create fake profiles, befriend innocent people, and send spam messages or links that lead to malicious websites. 

    But that’s only several of the ways that scammers can use social media to target you. 

    Other tactics include:

    • Sending you malicious links that infect your devices with malware.
    • Running online dating scams and coercing you into sending money or signing up for fake investment platforms. (The latest version of this scam, known as the “pig butchering scam” has cost victims over $10 billion.)
    • Posting ads to fake stores that steal your personal information or money.
    • Using social engineering tactics to trick you into giving scammers access to your social media accounts or sending them money and cryptocurrency.
    • Using surveys and quizzes to gather sensitive information that they can use to steal your identity. 
    • Impersonating brands, celebrities, and people you know — and tricking you into giving them money or personal information. 

    Scammers can create an endless number of fake profiles and ads, putting billions of social media users at risk. So, how do you spot a scammer before it’s too late?

    💡 Related: How To Protect your Personal Information on Social Media →

    Here’s How To Quickly Identify a Scammer on Social Media

    • Their messages include a lot of grammar and spelling errors. Many scammers aren’t native English speakers and may use poor spelling, strange and unnatural language, or awkward formatting. Be especially cautious when someone’s claimed background (where they were born, education, etc.) doesn’t match up with how they write.
    • It’s a brand new social media profile with little content or few friends. The average Facebook user has around 200–250 friends [*]. Regardless of the platform, Iif an account has fewer followers than that or is very new, it could be a scammer.
    • The profile belongs to someone with whom you thought you were already friends. Scammers create “cloned” profiles to impersonate your friends and contacts. 
    • You receive a random message with a link in it. Never click on links or engage with unsolicited direct messages (DMs). This is how scammers trick you into going to fake websites or downloading malware onto your device.
    Scammers pretending to be Twitter support
    Scammers will pretend to be official social media accounts to get you to click on malicious links. Source: Twitter
    • You’re asked to send money online (via gift cards, wire transfers, payment apps, etc.) or invest in cryptocurrency. This is the #1 red flag that you’re dealing with a social media scammer. 
    • Posts or ads promoting a deal that seems too good to be true. Low prices or hard-to-find items that are readily available are major warning signs of a scam.
    • You’re sent to an online store that depicts signs of a scam. Beware of sites that offer good deals but are missing basic information (like shipping times and costs, the company’s address, and direct contact information). When in doubt, follow best practices on how to shop online safely.
    • The person insists on taking the conversation off social media and asks you to text them. This allows them to bypass the security measures provided on most social media sites (or continue the scam if their account gets reported and banned). 
    Take action: If you’ve been the victim of a social media scam, your bank account, email, and other online accounts could be at risk. Try Aura’s #1-rated identity theft protection free for 14 days to keep your money and accounts safe from scammers.

    The 10 Latest Social Media Scams in 2022

    1. Investment and cryptocurrency scams
    2. Romance scams
    3. Social media account takeover fraud
    4. Authentication code scams
    5. Social media ads promoting fake online stores and counterfeit products
    6. Impersonator accounts
    7. “Is this you in this photo/video?” and other link scams
    8. Social media quizzes
    9. Lottery, sweepstakes, and giveaway scams
    10. Job scams on social media

    Cybercriminals will stop at nothing to get you to give up your hard-earned money and personal data. 

    Keep an eye out for these common social media scams to help stay safe from fraudsters:

    1. Investment and cryptocurrency scams

    Fake cryptocurrency and investment opportunities are among the biggest scams happening on social media right now. It’s estimated that 37% of all social media scam losses last year were due to investment scams — with the majority being cryptocurrency scams [*].

    The con starts when a scammer reaches out to you, typically via direct social media message. They’ll start off by trying to build a relationship but then quickly share information about a “great investment opportunity” that helped them “make so much money so fast.” 

    Example of a crypto investment scam on WhatsApp. Source: The Standard
    Example of a crypto investment scam on WhatsApp. Source: The Standard

    But if you invest, you’ll be sending money or crypto directly to a scammer. 

    ⚠️Warning signs of a social media investment scam:

    • Promises of high returns with zero risk.
    • Professional-looking investment websites or crypto exchanges with little to no information about the company. 
    • The scammer offers to walk you through your first few trades and claims to have insider knowledge of the market.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Conduct a thorough online search and/or contact your state’s Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) to see whether or not the person offering you this opportunity is a real investment banker. 
    • Don’t share any personal information until you’ve verified whether the company is legitimate or not. 
    • Do not send money to anyone who has reached out directly over social media.

    2. Romance scams

    Romance scams are common on dating sites, but many scammers also turn to social media to find victims. 

    In these scams, fraudsters create fake profiles using stolen photos of attractive people to lure in unsuspecting social media users. Once they initiate a relationship, they’re very forward and “love bomb” their victims — quickly telling them that they’re in love and want to meet up.  

    Love bombing examples
    Examples of what love bombing can sound like. Source: The Equality Institute

    Eventually, the catfisher will mention financial troubles and ask for help. Too many people have fallen victim to this, with romance scams comprising 24% of all social media scams [*]. 

    ⚠️Warning signs of a romance scam:

    • The person wants to quickly move from the social media site to WhatsApp or texting.
    • They promise to meet in person but come up with excuses for why they can’t.
    • They repeatedly ask for personal information, like your location or pet’s name. 
    • The scammer professes their love for you early in the conversation. 
    • They ask for money or gift cards. 

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Be conscious of what you post publicly online. Scammers can use your posts, tweets, or updates to craft a personalized approach that makes you think you’ve found the “perfect partner.” 
    • Be safe and always meet people you meet online in public places. 
    • Don’t send money to people you haven’t met in person.

    💡 Related: These 10 WhatsApp Scams Are as Unnerving as They Look →

    3. Social media account takeover fraud

    Account takeover fraud occurs when hackers gain access to someone’s social media profile. They may trick you into giving up access, use a phishing attack to steal your password, or simply buy your login information off the Dark Web. 

    Cost of hacked social media accounts on the Dark Web
    Scammers can buy access to hacked social media accounts for as little as $25. Source: Dark Web Price Index 2022

    Once they gain access, scammers will use these accounts to:

    • Post about fake investment opportunities.
    • Share links to phishing sites or fake stores.
    • Gather personal details from their victim’s friends and family members.
    • Gain access to other online accounts (for example, by using “sign in with Facebook”).

    ⚠️ Warning signs of an account takeover scam:

    • Your friend is randomly sending messages that don’t fully seem like actual things they would say.
    • Your friend is randomly posting about investment opportunities or great deals that they just found.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Secure your accounts with strong and unique passwords, and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 

    If you receive a message or see a social media post from a friend that doesn’t seem quite right — no matter what platform it’s on — message them on a different platform (or via text/phone call) to double-check that their account didn’t get hacked.

    Are your passwords for sale? See if your accounts are at risk using Aura’s free Dark Web scanner:

    Aura free Dark Web scanner

    4. Authentication code scams 

    Two-factor and multi-factor authentication (2FA and MFA) offer additional security for your online accounts by requiring confirmation of a special code along with your password. These codes are usually sent via text or email, making it hard for hackers to steal them. 

    Scammers on social media pretend to be friends or contacts who need “help” getting their account back and will ask to send a code to your phone or email. 

    Scammers requesting your 2FA code
    Scammers will pretend to be official social media profiles to request your 2FA code. Source: Aura team

    In reality, they’re requesting a 2FA code for your account. If you send the code back to them, they’ll gain access to your online accounts.

    ⚠️ Warning signs of an authentication code scam:

    • You’ve received a random text with an authentication code for one of your accounts.
    • A stranger is texting or messaging you and asking for an authentication code.
    • Some scammers claim the code is a way to “tell you’re legitimate” on Facebook Marketplace (or other platforms) as a ruse to get you to send them your code. 

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    • Never give a stranger an authentication code that has been texted or emailed to you. Legitimate companies will never ask for your password or 2FA code. 
    • Ignore any requests for 2FA codes, and immediately change your passwords for the affected accounts.

    5. Social media ads promoting fake online stores or counterfeit products

    Scammers often use social media ads to promote fake products or stores on social media. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has received thousands of complaints about misleading Facebook and Instagram ads [*]. 

    These online shopping ads try to capture your attention by saying the proceeds are going to charity; or they list items at unbelievable prices.

    Example of a fake Facebook ad. Source: Forbes
    Example of a fake Facebook ad. Source: Forbes

    However, the ads are just fronts to get your money or information, and the scammers do not intend to fulfill the order. 

    ⚠️ Warning signs of a social media ad scam:

    • Poor-quality product images are the center point of the ad.
    • Price points are exponentially lower than what other retailers are charging.
    • There are spelling and grammatical errors in the ad copy.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. To be safe, do a Google search of the brand or product to check reviews. Consider searching for “[brand name] + [scam/reviews/legit]” to see if anything comes up. 

    💡 Related: How To Avoid Facebook Marketplace Scams →

    6. Impersonator accounts

    Scammers create imposter social media accounts using someone else's name, photos, and other identifying information.

    Impersonator accounts may request money, send links for phishing scams, or post fake giveaways and prizes.

    Scammers have also started impersonating celebrities. Several people have shared their experiences on social media about celebrities supposedly contacting them for financial assistance [*] or claiming they’re raising money for charities.

    ⚠️ Warning signs of an impersonator scam:

    • The account is not verified — especially if it normally would be (i.e., a celebrity or influencer).
    • A celebrity or someone you don’t know well is requesting money. 
    • A “lookalike” social media handle misleadingly seems like it could belong to the real person. 

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    A celebrity or influencer is likely not messaging you to ask for financial help. Always conduct an additional search to see if you can find a verified account for this person, or an account that displays more followers, content, and engagement.

    7. “Is this you in this photo/video?” and other link scams

    This scam is another version of a hacked account scam. You might receive a message from a friend or stranger that says something like, “Is this you in this photo?!” alongside a link. 

    While reading a message like this can be nerve-racking (or pique your curiosity), don’t click on the link. If you do, it will most likely take you to a fake social media login page designed to steal your password.

    ⚠️ Warning signs of a link scam:

    • You receive a random message with a strange-looking link or a threatening message.
    • When clicking on a link, you’re prompted to log in to a website.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Never click on a suspicious-looking link. Check in with the friend from whom you received the link; but use a different platform or method of communication to either see if it’s legitimate or to let them know that their social media account has been hacked.

    If you’re ever asked to log in to an account via a link, check that the page is secure and has a valid security certificate (issued to the site that you think you’re logging in to).

    Click on the padlock symbol near the site’s domain name to see if it is secure, and confirm that the certificate was issued to the company in question.

    8. Social media quizzes

    Scammers use quizzes on social media to steal your personal information and break into your accounts. 

    These quizzes start with innocent-sounding questions, such as “What car did you pass your driver’s test with?” or “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What street did you grow up on?” 

    But these are common security questions to access your bank account and other financial institutions.

    ⚠️ Warning signs of a social media quiz scam:

    • A quiz poses unrelated and deeply personal questions.
    • You recognize the questions from options you’ve had for security questions.
    • The quiz requests your phone number in order for you to view the results. 

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    If a quiz starts asking strange questions, stop there. Don’t answer further questions, and immediately report the account to the social media platform. 

    9. Lottery, sweepstakes, and giveaway scams

    In this type of scam, fraudsters DM you to say you've won a prize. But to receive it, you must first pay or provide financial information.

    Scammers claiming that you've won the lottery over social media
    A scammer DMs potential victims to say they’ve won a prize. Source: Colorado Lottery

    Everyone wants to win a big prize. But if you haven't entered any giveaways, you shouldn't receive congratulatory messages in your DMs.

    ⚠️ Warning signs of a lottery, sweepstakes, or giveaway scam:

    • You’re being asked to pay to receive your prize (i.e., taxes, shipping, processing fees).
    • You’re told that paying increases your chances of winning.
    • You’re asked to provide financial account information or a phone number to claim your prize.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Do not pay an account that DMs you. No credible lottery or sweepstakes requires you to pay. It’s illegal to request money for sweepstakes. 

    If you really have entered the lottery or sweepstakes, ensure that the person contacting you about your prize is not asking for money upfront. 

    10. Job scams on social media

    The number of job scams have rocketed in the last few years as more Americans are working from home or exclusively online. 

    Fraudsters create fake social media accounts to promote amazing remote job opportunities, promising that you can make tons of money. Scammers have two objectives when running a job scam:

    1. Get money from you. A scammer will give you the job, but only if you “buy the equipment” first. 
    2. Get information from you. Scammers will send you a job application in hopes that you’ll fill it out and give away private information, such as your Social Security number and home address.
    Example of a bogus job advertisement on Facebook. Source: ProPublica
    Example of a bogus job advertisement on Facebook. Source: ProPublica

    ⚠️ Warning signs of a job scam:

    • The job pays extremely well for not much work.
    • The supposed employer wants you to pay for your own equipment (legitimate companies should provide you with everything you need).
    • You’re sent a check for a large amount and told to deposit it and then send some of the money back to the employer. This is a classic bank scam.

    Don’t get scammed! Do this instead:

    Always research companies to which you’re applying, and make sure they’re legitimate. You can check reviews on sites like Glassdoor, or search for the company name on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. In all cases, you should never pay for equipment, training, or supplies upfront for a new job. 

    💡 Related: How To Identify Job Scams →

    Did You Fall for a Social Media Scam? Do This!

    With 25% of all fraud victims getting scammed on social media, there’s a good chance that you could become a victim. Here’s what to do if you’ve been scammed on social media. 

    If scammers took over your social media account:
    • Request a password reset email from the social media service. Each site and app has a different process for recovering a hacked account. For example, here’s how to recover a hacked Instagram account.
    • Once you regain access, force any unfamiliar sessions to log out. For example, check your “login activity” and look for devices or locations that you don’t recognize.
    • Then, update the email and phone number associated with your account, and change your passwords. 
    • Enable 2FA on your account and use an authenticator app such as Authy (instead of text or SMS).
    If you sent a social media scammer money or crypto:
    • Try to cancel the transaction by contacting the financial institution or crypto exchange that you used. 
    • Freeze your credit. This stops scammers from using your financial information to open new accounts or take out loans. 
    • Report the fraud to the social media platform and to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
    • If you have any information that could lead to the arrest of the scammer, you should also file a police report with your local law enforcement.
    If you clicked on a strange link or gave scammers personal information:
    • Report the fraud to the social media platform. Collect as much as information as you can, including screenshots of conversations and the scammer’s profile. 
    • File an official identity theft report with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov. This is an essential step if you need to dispute fraudulent transactions or prove that you were the victim of identity theft. 
    • Report the fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This will help the authorities track current scams and go after the fraudsters. 
    • Do a full scan of your device with antivirus software, and follow the steps of what to do if you think you’ve been hacked.
    • Consider signing up for Aura’s #1-rated identity theft protection. Try Aura free for 14 days and see if it’s right for you →

    How To Stay Safe and Avoid Social Media Scams

    With billions of people using social media, it’s impossible to completely avoid scammers. But if you’re vigilant and do your due diligence, you can stay safe and social at the same time. 

    Whenever you’re using social media, make sure to follow these best practices:

    • Never click on pop-up messages or links from unsolicited, private messages. 
    • Don’t give out personal information unless you know the website you’re on is legitimate and secure. 
    • Adjust your social media privacy settings to ensure that your posts are not visible to strangers.
    • Don’t respond to strangers messaging you on social media.
    • Create strong, unique passwords for each social media account.
    • Use a password manager to securely store your passwords and warn you if your account has been compromised. 
    Aura password manager
    • Activate two-factor authentication (2FA) for your accounts.
    • If you suspect a friend or company has been hacked, contact them directly through trusted channels (such as their phone number). 
    • Never send money to someone you’ve only met on social media. 

    For added protection, consider signing up for Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution to keep you and your family safe from scams. 

    With Aura, you get #1-rated identity theft protection, 24/7 credit monitoring, proactive digital security tools — including antivirus software, virtual private network (VPN), password manager, and more — as well as $1 million in insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft. 

    Stop scammers in their tracks. Try Aura free for 14 days →

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers