Lookout Study Identifies an Ongoing Consumer Scam Surge

November 18, 2022
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Over 60% of the world’s population relies on technology to navigate their daily lives — that’s over 5 billion people! Unfortunately, with such a large audience online, bad actors have turned to technology to deploy scams and make a profit. Scammers use an array of channels to target people with phishing and social engineering scams that appear real, in order to trick them into handing over valuable personal information. From spoofed phone calls that appear to be from reputable businesses to “special offers” on social media, to fake versions of legitimate websites, emails, and text messages, scams are now appearing everywhere — all the time.

To shed light on the world of digital scams, Lookout commissioned a survey that spoke to 1,000 U.S. consumers to understand where (and how frequently) people encounter scams, whether they have fallen victim to scammers, and the associated impact. The findings confirmed that we are in the midst of a digital scam “surge,” with the vast majority of people incessantly encountering scams across many digital channels, and with social media emerging as a area where people are being victimized.

Scams are happening everywhere and all the time 

It may come as no surprise that email and text message scams are amongst the most frequently encountered. In fact, our survey shows that every month, almost 9 in 10 respondents received a scam email, and 8 in 10 received a text message scam. 

Taking a deeper look, 46% of these people reported receiving a scam daily via email, and 31% via text messages. Traditional channels like email and text messages aren’t the only way scammers are reaching people. Social media has emerged as a key area of focus for scammers, with 80% of respondents reporting that they encountered social media scams on a monthly basis; with 34% of these encountering scams every day. 

The rise in social media scams 

In 2022, social networking sites will reach 4.26 billion users, according to Statistica, — and unfortunately, bad actors have specifically turned their sights to those platforms to find their victims

Earlier this year, the Better Business Bureau reported that social media is the number one place people reported being targeted by a scam. And the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that social media has become a “goldmine” for scams, with more than 95,000 people reporting approximately $770 million in losses to fraud initiated on social media platforms in 2021. 

Lookout’s recent findings showed that, depending on the social media platform, 30 to 60% of people are encountering scams on a weekly basis. For instance, people reported encountering scams at the highest frequency on Facebook (62%) followed by TikTok (60%), Whatsapp (57%), Instagram (56%), Twitter (53%), and LinkedIn (31%). 

Social media scams vary by platform 

People often report encountering social media scams that originate via an advertisement, a post, or a message. According to our survey findings, the most frequent type of scam encountered on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Whatsapp is related to “Winning A Prize” or “A Free Gift Offer.” The second most common type of scam reported on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok relates to “Shopping or False Advertisement.” 

Interestingly, the top scams encountered on LinkedIn were “Job Related” scams and “Cryptocurrency” scams. On LinkedIn’s website, the company explains that job scams typically involve people pretending to be recruiters or employers offering high-paying jobs for little work. These can include mystery shoppers, work from home, or personal assistant scams.

Many people fall victim to social media scams 

Among the people who have encountered a social media scam, approximately 2 in 10 reported falling victim to a scam on a social media site. 

The number one place people reported falling victim to a scam was on Whatsapp (22%), followed by Facebook (19%), TikTok (15%), Instagram (14%), Twitter (14%), and LinkedIn (12%).

The significant impacts of social media scams

Of the people who fell victim to a scam, the aftermath included lost money, personal identity theft, lost time, and lost cryptocurrency. 

Victims reported anywhere from $1 to $1,000+ in losses

Tips to protect yourself from digital scams

While the results of our survey highlight that digital and social media scams are, indeed, on the rise, there is good news: Consumers can take a number of key steps to help protect their security, privacy, and financial information against scams.

Be sure to stay vigilant about online and social media scams, and remember that not everything you see online is real. 

Ads 

Before you make any purchases, research the company online to ensure it is a legitimate business and read consumer reviews. Be wary of:

  • Offers that seem too good to be true
  • Messages that contain spelling or grammar errors
  • Messages that create a high level of urgency
  • Messages asking you for personal or financial information.

Messages

If you get a message from a “friend” on social media about an opportunity or an urgent need for money, do not respond directly to the message. Instead, call them directly to verify. This kind of message is a sign their account may have been compromised — especially if they ask you to pay by cryptocurrency or wire transfer. 

Paying online

Never send money (traditional or cryptocurrency) to sources that you can not confidently verify in person. 

Phishing attacks are becoming increasingly hard to discern with the naked eye. Consider using advanced security — including malware and Safe Browsing protection — that will scan all apps and links you click and block threats before they do harm.

*This survey was conducted within the United States on behalf of Lookout in July 2022, among 1,000 respondents.

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