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It’s after 8 p.m. and you’re snuggled up with a comfy blanket (and maybe a fur baby or two) and your trusty device, thumbing through Instagram (or your favorite social media site). A few double taps here to like a post, a handful of @ mentions to tag your friends and family in a funny meme and maybe a direct message or two to share a reel or long-form post with a friend.

And let’s not forget the slew of events, products and “free” offers being promoted. They’re EVERYWHERE. Maybe it’s a close contact sharing a product they use and sell, or an influencer you follow posting an ad for something, but it usually ends in a “swipe up to use this code” or “DM me for details.”

Since it’s someone you know (or have followed online for quite some time), it must be legitimate, so you trust your emotions and don’t do research before purchasing or sharing your personal or financial information and before you know it, you’re stuck with a lame duck product, you buy something and never receive it, or worse, you start seeing charges on your credit card you didn’t make.

Check out a few of the most common social media scams of 2021 and ways you can stay safe while scrolling through social.

The Scams

  • Grants and products promoted by influencers or your “friends.” This one is tough because people typically trust a personal recommendation more than advertising, so when someone you know posts about something online, it must be legit, right? Maybe not. Scammers are hacking your friends’ accounts (or stealing their photos and creating fake accounts in your friend’s name) to promote their scam.
  • Buying goods or services that aren’t real. Did you know that most online purchases happen between 8 and 9 p.m.? Maybe it’s because all your work and household chores are done for the day or maybe it’s because the kids are in bed, whatever the reason, before bed is a peak online shopping time. Unfortunately, making purchases at that time isn’t the best idea, as you are more likely to make impulse decisions. A common online shopping scam involves purchasing a product or service, but never getting it. Maybe you saw an ad while scrolling through social media or happened upon a link another way, but goods and services that never arrive made up a quarter of reported online shopping scams in 2020.
  • Not-so-charitable giving. Love helping others and want to help by donating to a fundraiser? Make sure it’s the real deal before you enter your credit card details. Fraudsters are creating fake giving pages for personal medical expenses, and some scammers even claim to represent nonprofit organizations helping victims hit hard by a natural disaster.

What you can do

  • Go old school and take the conversation offline. If you see what seems like a great deal or opportunity for quick money that your friend is posting online, text or call them. This way you can make sure it’s really them and can get more details before signing up for whatever it is that’s being promoted.
  • Be an online sleuth. Tap into your inner detective and do some investigating before you make a purchase. Type the name of the company or product + “scam” or “complaint” into Google and see what happens. You can also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website to see if there are any scam alerts for the company you saw advertising products on social media.
  • Make sure your online gifts make it to the right recipient. Even if an online fundraising link is posted by a friend of yours, be sure to double-check that it’s the real deal. Click through the link and check out the “about” page and click on the organizer’s profile. You can also search for news articles about the fundraiser (especially if it’s for someone locally who was injured in an accident or is fighting a disease). If you’re still not sure if the fundraiser is legitimate, you can reach out to the organizer or beneficiary to see if you can mail them a check instead.
  • Bring it back to your budget. You knew this one was coming, but before you make a quick decision based on an ad or post you saw online, check your budget to see if this potential expenditure fits. If it doesn’t, take some time to sleep on it and save the link or opportunity for another time. We know that FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, especially when it comes to a “limited time offer,” but if you didn’t know you needed it before you started scrolling on social media, odds are it’s OK to miss out on the deal this time.
  • Keep your emotions in check. In addition to FOMO, some scams tap into other emotions to get you to act first and think later. This could be empathy by hearing a story of sick child in need of money for treatment, or loneliness after months of limited social contact, or even desperation for a quick fix to whatever problem you are looking to solve (such as being short on cash or wanting to lose weight quickly). If you are basing your decisions on how you feel at the moment, you may be at increased risk for being scammed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and depressed, reach out to a friend to chat, or text the Crisis Hotline and remember that you are not alone!

How Verve can help

If you think your Verve account is at risk because of a social media scam, online purchase or any other type of scam, call Verve at 800.448.9228. One of our team members can look at your account with you to verify there are no suspicious transactions, help you cancel your card if you’ve entered your number into a questionable website, as well as guide you on how to safeguard your account against fraud.

It’s Verve’s goal—in line with our guiding seven Cooperative Principles—to provide education, training and information to help our members stay financially fit. Verve is committed to keeping our members educated when it comes to their finances by providing details on financial risks and ways to stay safe. Help your friends and family stay safe against social media scams by sharing this blog post.