COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned Ohio consumers about scams that attract potential victims through social media.
“Scams can be found anywhere, and social media is no exception,” Attorney General DeWine said. “The same rules that apply to other scams apply here — if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and if a stranger asks you to wire money, beware as it’s likely a scam.”
In 2014, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than 20 complaints involving potential scams where consumers came into contact with the potential scammer through social media. Reported losses range from $30 to $3,000 or more.
Prize and grant scams — Consumers wired several hundred dollars each after finding an offer for a prize or grant on Facebook. The offers turned out to be bogus.
Money flipping scams — After seeing posts on Instagram about turning hundreds of dollars into thousands, consumers sent $100 or more but never received anything in return.
Pet scams — Consumers found offers for puppies or parrots on Facebook and wired several hundred dollars but never received the puppies or parrots.
Scammers also can use information that consumers post on social media to make their scams more believable. For example, if a college student posts information about her travel plans, a scammer could use the information to contact the student’s grandparents and falsely claim that the student is in trouble overseas and needs money immediately to return home safely.
Similarly, a scammer could hack someone’s social media account and send out “emergency” messages to a consumers’ network of friends or contacts asking for money.
As in other types of scams, social media scams generally involve requests for payment through methods that are difficult to trace, including wire transfers or the purchase of a prepaid money card. Once the money is gone it is very difficult to recover.
Consumers can help protect themselves by following these tips:
Know that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any quick way to make a huge, guaranteed profit without any risks is likely a scam.
Be wary of any attempts by a stranger to get you to use a wire transfer service or purchase a prepaid money card.
Conduct online searches based on the information you know about someone you encounter online. For example, search the person’s name, online user ID, email address, and telephone number. Try searches using keywords from the posting and words such as “scam” or “complaint” to see if the post is part of a larger scam.
Know that strange or unexpected social media postings that appear to be from friends could be the result of a scammer hacking into those friends’ social media accounts. Before sending money, always verify the friend actually sent the post. Try calling a mutual friend at a trusted telephone number to check the legitimacy of such a posting.
Consumers who suspect a scam or organizations wishing to schedule a cybersecurity presentation should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.