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Investment scammers on social media ran off with $285 million in 2021

A January FTC report said 37 percent, or roughly $285 million, of all social media scam losses last year were investment related.
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A person uses a smartphone in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Tuesday.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission said fraud artists used social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram to scam about $770 million from people in the U.S. last year, "a stunning eighteenfold increase over 2017" that has ballooned to account for about a quarter of all fraud losses nationwide.

And, the FTC said, a recent surge in online investing was a particularly lucrative target for scammers, accounting for 37 percent, or about $285 million, of all social media-related fraud losses. The scams involved not only standard investments like stocks, bonds and cryptocurrency, but also art, precious metals and stones, investment advice, stock options and more.

The FTC said, 64 percent of those targeted on social media in such scams paid their attackers in cryptocurrency.

The FTC pointed to a May report that outlined how crypto scams had risen to be the most common type of investment fraud experienced by people younger than 50, whose median loss was $1,900. Typical investors ages 50 or up were less likely to be victims of crypto scams, but when they were, their median loss was $3,250.

Together, losses from investment scams and romance scams — which were far fewer in number but costlier per capita — accounted for over 60 percent of the $770 million social media scammers stole last year.

Another common fraud for those targeted on social media were shopping scams — 70 percent of which involved buying merchandise that never arrived — which accounted for nearly half of all loss reports but a smaller proportion of total monetary losses. Nine of 10 of those victims said they were targeted on Facebook or Instagram, according to the FTC report.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some general tips from the FTC to avoid social media-targeted scams include limiting who can see your posts, opting out of targeted advertising, verifying any requests for money from trusted contacts with telephone calls, slowing down romantic relationships started on apps and researching companies before purchasing any merchandise online.

The FTC encourages victims of online fraud to report scams at