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Amy was a retired nurse, social worker, and trustee who held an honorary role as a treasurer of a very well-known non-profit organization in Connecticut. Her husband, a military veteran, had passed away five years ago. The years that followed his death were lonely and grueling for the 50-year-old woman. After several nudges from family and friends to heal and move on, she decided to spice up her social life and turned to Facebook.

Her first friend request was from a retired cop named Fred. Like Amy, Fred had lost his wife some years ago, but worse, in a fire accident. This was a ground for them to connect emotionally, and they soon hit it off. Fred was also a computer whiz and would often help Amy resolve minor issues with her PC and smartphone, which further endeared him to her. To top it off, he showered her with gifts now and then.

Six months had passed, and Amy had fallen in love with this stranger she had never met—or so she thought. One morning, she ran into trouble with her PC again and, as usual, reached out to Fred. The latter, always on the ready, sent her a link and set of instructions to rectify the issue. Unknown to her, this act exposed her device to a virus, which installed itself and gained access to her financial information.

In the next couple of days, Amy received messages and calls from her credit card and financial service providers, as well as the charity she chaired. All her savings and donations totaling $2.5 million were siphoned off, and Fred was nowhere to be found.

The Reality of Social Media Scams

Amy’s tragic story is one of the numerous cases when people lose thousands and even millions of dollars to scammers on social media platforms. According to a scam report published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have lost $2.7 billion to such related scams since 2021, which is only the tip of the iceberg, considering that the actual figure may be way higher. In fact, one in four people who reported losing money since the specified period said they were scammed by someone they met on social media.

This data is solely limited to the United States. Globally, social media scams are the leading cause of financial losses. Scammers use various techniques to gain the trust of unsuspecting individuals and dupe them of their savings.

But why do these bad actors successfully get away with such acts, especially when their targets are Americans? Here are some common reasons:

A High Purchasing Power

The United States, no doubt, has an advanced mixed economy. In terms of nominal GDP, it is the world’s largest economy, and from the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) standpoint, it is the second largest after China. This means that what would normally seem like a steal in other countries is not even half of an American’s worth. This explains why, unlike other social media users from lower-income countries, most Americans won’t question a request for $20, $50, or $100 in gift cards. Some won’t even mind gifting a mutual friend $2,000, a PlayStation console, or even a smartphone, provided that the individual’s story seems legit.

A Sense of Generosity and Trust

Americans are generally generous people with good hearts. They are not averse to opening up their wallets to causes they believe in and won’t even hesitate to make impulsive donations to charities and even strangers. Plus, they strongly uphold honesty and transparency, even in social media relationships, which makes them viable targets for those with ulterior motives.

Scammers often exploit such sentiments, to the point of even convincing their victims to share social security numbers, credit card details, and other sensitive data.

Sophisticated Tactics

Aside from exploiting the supposed ‘weakness’ in the American culture, scammers are also increasingly getting smarter in terms of approach. They have a good understanding of human behavior and will employ tactics to induce strong emotions like fear, excitement, and guilt to make victims act on their impulses. Some scammers would pretend to be in an urgent financial crisis and need money from their potential victims to be able to get out of their predicament with a promise to refund a higher amount at a later date.


Catfishing is the practice of creating a fake online identity in order to steal money or personal information from someone. As Nuwber states, the consequences of catfishing can be cruel, as many victims don’t know how to cope with financial losses and emotional despair.

But what is catfishing in easier words? It is when someone creates a profile on any of the social media platforms and pretends to be someone they are not. They hunt for those who are looking for a partner, and one of their giveaway signs is that they may instantly start asking for money.

How Can You Avoid Falling Victim to Social Media Scams?

The aftermath of falling victim to a social media scam is not only financially devastating but also emotionally exhausting. In most cases, the victims are left with no choice but to lick their wounds and move on without ever reporting the scam to the appropriate authorities. This is why it is paramount to learn how to protect yourself on social media. Here are some basic tips:

Verify the Identity of Social Media Connections

There is no profile without a face behind it, whether the individual is genuine or fraudulent. If a connection wants to be friends with you, investigate their profile. Does it have a picture? A short biography? Have they shared any content on the platform? Do they have mutual connections with you or your friends? Do they have any friends on the platform in general?

If all that is left of their profile are three to five cryptic posts, no profile photo, and very few followers, then you should be wary of befriending them or responding to their messages.

Insist on a Live Video Call

If you want to be absolutely sure that your social media connections are genuine, schedule a live video call with them. Even if it is through a third-party platform like Google Meet or Zoom, this measure will help you weed out fake accounts posing as friends, relatives, co-workers, celebrities, or influencers.

Steer Clear of Unknown Links and Attachments

No matter how genuine someone looks on social media if they ever send you an unsolicited direct message or post with a link or attachment, steer clear. Even if the link appears genuine, verify it with valid security programs and unshorten URL tools before clicking on it. If it is an email attachment, refrain from downloading or opening it and delete it immediately, lest you infect your device with malware.

Trust Your Instincts

Your instincts are your most reliable source of information, so never ignore them, especially if something doesn’t feel right about a friend request, video call, or message. It could be a social media scam, so consider blocking the sender and moving on. This is better than getting yourself caught up in the middle of something unpleasant.


It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, scams are not unheard of, especially on social media platforms. As such, the best you can do when interacting with strangers online is to protect yourself using the tips discussed in this guide. Remember, not every connection is worth keeping, and if someone seems too good to be real, they probably are.

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