Protect yourself from social media scams

Learn how to stay secure and avoid fraudsters on social media, dating apps, and similar websites.

About social media scams

How social media scams work

The fraudster’s goal is to get you to buy and send them items like phones or gift cards.

First, the fraudster connects with you online to gain your trust. They may pose as a Facebook friend or as a romantic interest on a dating site. Then, they ask you to buy high-dollar items for them or for a charity they’re working for. They say they’ll send you the money, but ask you to make the initial purchase.

The fraudster makes it appear like there was a transfer of funds to your account. You buy the items, expecting the money to clear your account soon. But, after you send the items, the funds disappear—and you’re on the hook for the money you’ve spent.

How to protect yourself from social media scams

These kinds of requests aren’t legitimate when they come from someone you don’t know.

Tips to defend against scams on social media

  • Ignore unsolicited messages and calls.
  • Avoid sharing personal info or account details online with people you don’t know.
  • Be wary of anyone asking you to buy items or ship them to an unknown address.

If the fraudster claims the purchase is for charity

  • Donate money or send items directly to the charities you want to support.
  • Call or email the organization to make sure the request is legitimate. Be sure to get the contact info from a trusted source like the charity’s official website.
  • Report scams to any organization the fraudster claims to be associated with so they can warn others. You can report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.
Last updated: October 9, 2023

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