Social Media Cons Now Most Profitable Method for Scam Artists

New data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) showed that scams that originated on social medial platforms were the most profitable method for con artists to use in 2021.

"More than one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media with an ad, a post, or a message," the FTC said in a Consumer Protection Data Spotlight Post at the end of January. "In fact, the data suggest that social media was far more profitable to scammers in 2021 than any other method of reaching people."

According to data from the FTC, in 2021, over 95,000 Americans reported that they were scammed on social media and approximately $770 million was lost due to social media scams.

The FTC said that in 2021, the amount of money lost in social media scams accounted for around 26 percent of all scamming methods based on contact methods.

"Excluding reports that did not indicate a contact method, the total amount reported lost to frauds indicating social media as the contact method in 2021 was $770 million (26 percent), followed by website or app at $554 million (19 percent), and phone call at $546 million (18 percent)," the FTC said.

The report from the FTC comes a year after "imposter scams" ranked as the top fraud method of 2020, according to the agency.

The $770 million the FTC said was lost to social media scams in 2021 is 18 times higher than the $42 million that was lost in 2017. The total number of people reporting these scams during that same time period was 19 times higher in 2021 than in 2017 as the number increased from approximately 5,000 to 95,000, the FTC said.

Among different social media scams, investment scams ranked as the most profitable scam method, as those scams accounted for 37 percent of $770 million lost in 2021. According to data from the FTC, 24 percent of the total money lost was from romance scams, 14 percent was from online shopping and 27 percent was from "other" social media frauds.

"While investment and romance scams top the list on dollars lost, the largest number of reports came from people who said they were scammed trying to buy something they saw marketed on social media," the FTC said.

The FTC's data showed that online shopping scams on social media accounted for 45 percent of total reports. "In nearly 70 percent of these reports, people said they placed an order, usually after seeing an ad, but never got the merchandise," the FTC said.

According to the FTC, a majority of Americans said that Facebook and Instagram were the two most popular social media platforms where undelivered products were marketed.

Newsweek reached out to the FTC for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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Data from the Federal Trade Commission shows that social media scams were the most profitable fraud method in 2021. Above, this photo illustration, the social media applications logos, Twitter, Google, Google+, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are displayed. Chesnot/Getty