social media scams

Social Media Scams and How to Stay Safe in 2024

Last update: April 7, 2023

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No matter how careful you are, there is always the chance of getting scammed online by a fake website or an online scammer, especially on social media sites. If you’re not familiar with social media, it can be hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. Social media scams count on this to fool you.

There are more than 3.8 billion social media users, giving plenty of opportunities for social media scammers to target users. In fact, social media cybercrimes generate a minimum of $3.25 billion in global revenues annually. That’s right–every year. Did your jaw drop like mine?

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More than ever, it’s time for us to stay on top of our social media security. Keep reading to find out the most common social media scams to keep an eye out for this year. 

Common Scams on Social Media

There are plenty of ways to get caught in a scam on a social media site. It’s the modern equivalent of signing up for a fun festival event, only to show up to an empty field with no Ferris Wheel in sight with your bank account no better for it.

Most of these scams aren’t hard to recognize and avoid; they just require being wary and paying attention to your (virtual) surroundings. 

Here’s what to be on the lookout for when you think of the words “social media scam.” 

1. Impersonation scams

Impersonation scams are where a scammer pretends to be either a friend or a celebrity to get you to comply with their requests. They’ll either message you privately or post something on your timeline for all of your friends to see that asks for money or tries to sell you something.

The main defense against impersonation scams is skepticism. Don’t just automatically believe that the person contacting you is who they claim to be — if it seems suspicious, it probably is. 

You’re more likely to encounter these kinds of scams on Twitter and Facebook because both sites allow users to create profiles using pretty much any name they want — there’s no verification process for the user’s identity.

When someone sends you a friend request online, check out their profile before accepting the request. Make sure their pictures look like what you’d expect from them and that their social media posts seem consistent with the persona you already know. 

If someone claiming to be a celebrity reaches out via private message and offers you an opportunity that seems odd or like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

If someone messages you about a seemingly super exclusive, fancy event for which an RSVP is required, check it out directly with the organization hosting the event before sending any money. 

In a nutshell, don’t accept friend requests or engage with someone you’re not sure about.

2. Romance scams

Did you know that 1 in 5 relationships start online? Estimates show that by 2040, 70% of people will have met their partners online. It’s fascinating, yes, but also pretty terrifying when you look at the ugly side of the coin and the very real threat of scammers on these apps. 

In the social dating world, this is called a “catfishing” scam. It’s quite common on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, where romance scammers might pretend to be someone else in order to lure people into communicating with them. 

In a romance scam, the scammer will initiate a long-distance romance over social media as a pretense to ask for money or steal information. Scammers often use stolen photos or pictures of professional models and actors in their social media profiles to trick you into sending money or giving up personal or account information.

If you’re looking for love online, it’s best to follow some basic safety tips. Don’t assume that people you meet online are truthful or honest simply because they may be attractive to you. Never give out your financial information to anyone you don’t know personally, and never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.

Even if a relationship develops online, it’s best not to share your home address or any personal account information with someone until you’ve met them in person and gotten to know them better.

3. Clickbait scams

Ever clicked on a link and wondered why you did? There are hundreds of social media spammy links designed specifically to get us to click them. You might get a comment like, “OMG, why are you in this video?!” with a link. You click on it to see what’s going on, and the next thing you know, your computer has been infected with malware. 

It happens all the time, especially on Facebook and Twitter feeds. Should you click on these enticing links?

The answer is almost always “no.” In general, avoid clicking suspicious links from other social media accounts, especially if you can’t personally verify the person on the other end of the screen. Why? Because scams abound on social media — scammers can create fake posts and tweets that get lots of engagement and try to get people to click through to a malicious website.

In some cases, you might even see a link tweeted out by verified or celebrity accounts that you trust. This happened in 2020 when scammers hijacked public profile Twitter accounts. They tweeted and messaged malicious links to a bitcoin scam from the accounts of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and even former President Barack Obama. Needless to say, if Obama can get hacked, so can Jimmy from junior high.

Moral of the story? Don’t go clicking on every link you see on social media. 

4. Quiz scams

Social media scams are becoming more sophisticated by the day. Scammers are not just selling bogus products to Facebook users. Now, they try to get you to do a quiz in exchange for a prize. 

Tutorials and quizzes are some of the most popular posts on social media, and people are more likely to share them with their friends. This makes them an ideal way for scammers to reach a wide audience.

You may have already come across one of these quizzes. They often ask you some basic questions about yourself, such as your name or where you live, in exchange for a “prize” like free gift cards. The catch? You need to give them your personal information.

The idea is that you will enter your bank account details or your social security number into the form at the end of the quiz so that they can verify your identity and credit you with the money. In reality, this is just a way for them to commit identity theft and scam you out of money.

Another popular variation asks you to follow someone’s social media account and share something in order to enter a contest or giveaway. In most cases, the offer isn’t real.

To protect yourself from quiz scams, you can check the official website that sends the quiz link. Make sure it’s an authentic company or brand. Then, make sure there is a privacy policy on the site if your personal data will be collected.

Remember, if the quiz is legitimate, they don’t need your personal information to mail you your winnings.

5. Lottery and job scams

Lottery scams are other internet scams, particularly popular on social media, and they are on the rise. The scammer tries to convince the victim they won a lottery, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in winnings, and all they have to do is pay a fee or provide their personal details to claim the prize. In some cases, it’s both. 

To make the scam more believable, scammers may even use a real lottery name (such as Mega Millions or EuroMillions).

Social media job scams are also growing, especially with the global shift to remote work. You might see an ad on Facebook from companies you recognize that promise a high-paying job from home. Once you respond, you’ll be asked to pay a fee for training materials or other expenses before you can get started. These are fake job offers designed to scam you for your money.

You should never trust any such message that arrives via private or direct message on social media. Scammers know better than to post their scams publicly, but private messages allow them to hide from potential victims who may be searching for scams.

Second, don’t click links to websites that look suspicious. If you’re asked for personal information or money, simply delete the message rather than reply.

How to Avoid Social Media Scams

Social media scams are everywhere, and they don’t discriminate. But you can avoid them with a little help if you know what red flags to look out for.

1. Don’t fall for clickbait

Scams can be hard to recognize because they look so much like real offers. The key to avoiding social media scams is simple: Just think before you click. The offer might be tempting, but assume that anything that sounds too good to be true is a scam.

If someone promises you a huge prize for little effort, it’s probably a scam. Learn more in the guide on how to protect yourself from hackers.

2. Double-check everything

Scammers often try to use emotional appeals like sympathy (for example, claiming that they’re trying to help a family member) or urgency (such as saying that you need to act quickly or someone could get hurt). They might also try to fool you by using fake websites that look real.

Whatever the case, make sure you verify the source. For example, if a loved one sends a Facebook message asking for money, give them a call to follow up.

Simple checks like these can make all the difference. 

3. Never provide personal information

This tip is a given. You should never give out your sensitive information, including your birth date, address, or phone number, especially if someone has contacted you through social media rather than a trusted source like your bank or credit card company.

Be careful never to share your passwords either. This is especially important if someone contacts you claiming to be a friend who wants to get into your account to “fix” it in some way. Also, be wary of people claiming to be from a website’s support team. A social media site will never ask for your password.

If someone contacts you through social media claiming to be an old friend or a potential new love interest, be wary if they ask for private information right away. 

Even if you can trust your friend (and even if they really are that person), there’s no good reason to share your password with anyone else when you’re not using it yourself. The digital security guide has more tips on how to protect your personal information.

4. Use a strong, unique password

Using a strong password prevents people from taking over your accounts and using you for scams. Use one that has both letters and numbers. Make it more secure by adding symbols and capital letters. Your password should also be at least twelve characters long to be robust.

Make sure you use a password that no one would ever guess–not even family members, close friends or co-workers. Learn more password protection tips in the password security guide

Also, avoid reusing passwords. If someone manages to access one of your accounts because you used the same password on both, they’ll immediately have access to every other account you use with the same password. If your old password was “IHeartMom,” a scammer can easily figure out that you used “IHeartMom123” on another site, so make sure the passwords are not too similar.

Where to Report Social Media Scams

No one wants to become a victim of social media fraud. But if you do fall for one, it’s important to know which authorities to report it to, so you can take quick action. 

Here are some quick pointers on what you can do if that happens: 


Con artists have been using the Internet to find victims for years. If you don’t want to become a victim, it’s important to know the methods they use and how to spot them. I hope the pointers in this article help you stay safe this new year.

Have you been scammed before? Do you know about any other social media scams apart from those above? Drop a comment and let me know.

Thanks for reading, and remember — stay safe on socials! 

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