JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Fraudsters have scammed social media users out of $2.7 billion since 2021, according to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The staggering losses stem from the fact that scammers can easily make a fake profile or hack into an existing one and pretend to be another person.

“The scams fall into typically one of three categories: You’ve got your shopping, you’ve got your romance, and investing,” cybersecurity expert Kevin Ricci explained.

According to the FTC, the most frequently reported fraud was from people who tried to buy something on social media like undelivered goods, clothing and electronics during the first half of 2023.

Ricci advises people to do their research when shopping on social media.

“Take a look at how far back their social media posts will go, because longevity is a good indicator on how reliable these companies may be,” he said.

Although shopping had more frequent reports of fraud, people lost the most money on fake investment opportunities. That’s when scammers try to lure people in with promises of big financial returns.

“An example of an investment scam is for someone looking to you to invest in cryptocurrency,” Ricci said.

The second-highest amount of losses was reported with romance scams. These scams often start with a request from a stranger. Once trust is established, scammers ask for money.

Ricci credits the rise in social media scams to artificial intelligence.

“They are now able to use, for example, AI chatbots, which is Chat GPT, to formulate perfect grammar and spelling and those were typically the hallmarks of an attach,” he said.

Here are some ways to steer clear of scams on social media from the FTC:

  • Limit who can see your posts and information on social media. All platforms collect information about you from your activities on social media, but visit your privacy settings to set some restrictions.
  • If you get a message from a friend about an opportunity or an urgent need for money, call them. Their account may have been hacked—especially if they ask you to pay by cryptocurrency, gift card, or wire transfer. That’s how scammers ask you to pay.
  • If someone appears on your social media and rushes you to start a friendship or romance, slow down. Read about romance scams. And never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • Before you buy, check out the company. Search online for its name plus “scam” or “complaint.”