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Holiday shopping scammers target social media users

Written on Dec 2, 2022

The holiday shopping season is in full swing and, as recent trends show, more Americans are likely to engage digitally when buying gifts for friends, family and co-workers. 

Increasingly, shoppers are skimming through social media sites like Facebook , Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter to rack up some holiday sales discounts. 

While most social media shopping ads are legitimate and do offer good discounts, there are disturbingly increased incidents of bad actors out to scam shoppers who use social media to buy goods and services. 

About 47% of Americans have already been victimized by social media shopping scams, according to a study by Atlas VPN. 

In the study, 37% of surveyed social media users reported being victims of phishing link scams, while the same share of users has also fallen victim to gift card scams. Other non-shopping related grifts include job scams (30%), targeted advertising scams (27%), cloned and hacked account scams (23%), and investment scams (17%). 

Yet given the robust holiday shopping season activity, it’s retail scams and thefts that should concern social media users. 

“Social media sites offer an easy and low-cost way to set up fake online shops,” the Atlas VPN study reported. “With the help of social media ads, these scam schemes can reach millions of consumers worldwide.” 

While social media fraudsters have multiple tools to use to separate holiday shoppers from their money, there are plenty of effective ways to keep fraudsters at bay while shopping online. 

Do your homework. If you’re purchasing gifts via social media from a linked online store that is new to you, be sure to do your due diligence before clicking “buy now.” Check for complaints made to the Better Business Bureau, look at online reviews, check specifically to see if there are challenges concerning refunds or processing cards. Visa and Mastercard have publicly available registries listing service providers that comply with rules and industry security standards. 

Install a firewall software application on your computer (or, if you already have the software, make sure it is turned on.) Look for software that can protect your data in both directions — both incoming and outgoing data — to make sure the private information you provide when you make a purchase is secure. 

Look for ‘red flags'. Holiday shoppers should be vigilant about vetting all retailers under consideration for the holiday season. 

Buy from well-known retailers. If a deal is too good to be true then it probably is. Check your account daily for signs of fraud. 

Also, if a mobile app is available, shop via the app and never utilize public wifi. If you do use a URL, be sure that it has HTTPS at the beginning, alongside a lock, which indicates that the website is encrypted.