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If You Are a Victim of a Social Media Scam, Take the Following Steps

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports in its most recent Consumer Protection Data Spotlight that social media scammers had a golden year in 2021, with $770 million in social media-related fraud losses recorded to the agency. According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 95,000 people reported losing money to social media-related fraud last year, accounting for more than 25% of all fraud losses.

Here are four things to do, as well as authorities that might be able to assist you.

1. Listen to Your Suspicions

It could be an indication that something is wrong if the individual you've been interacting with stops returning your calls. If you aren't receiving regular account statements, or if your statements indicate unexplained losses or constant returns despite market fluctuations, these could also be indicators. When it comes to withdrawals, if you get the runaround, your money could be long gone.

2. Report It to the Authorities

You'd be astonished at how many scam victims keep their losses to themselves, and the excuses they provide. Only 35% of financial fraud victims reported the occurrence to authorities, according to a 2015 poll by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Respondents to the survey cited four primary reasons for their apprehension: 48 percent said it wouldn't make a difference, 35 percent said they just wanted to get it over with, 29 percent said they were humiliated, and 26 percent said they didn't know where to turn.

Investment fraud victims should not only report the crime but also inform as many agencies as possible, according to Gerri Walsh, president of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Investors can use the FINRA Investor Complaint Center to report problems with brokerage firms and brokers, as well as links to register complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the National Futures Association.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your local FBI office, your state attorney general, and your state's securities regulators may also be of assistance, depending on the nature of your complaint. The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) website has contact information for that last group. You should also seek legal advice from a private attorney, especially if your loss was significant.

Be wary of any unsolicited attempts to assist you in recovering your funds. Fraud-recovery Con artists swim alongside scammers like pilot fish do with sharks, swooping in for more bites of your money. Be especially aware of anyone who requests payment in advance, as this is a strategy that the FTC considers to be illegal in and of itself. What source do they use to get your name? Most likely from a con artist's list prepared and sold by the same thief who duped you in the first place.

3. Make Careful Notes and Save the Evidence

Write down your story as soon as you realize you've been duped. Investigations can take a long time, and even if you think you'll recall everything, your memory may be hazy in two years. Keep copies of all account statements, as well as canceled checks, e-mails, and other relevant documents. For example, canceled checks could aid investigators in determining where the money was put.

Whatever you do, don't invest any additional money in a deal you've been suspicious of. You would think you'd never do something like that, but Walsh claims it occurs all the time. Keep in mind that these are masters of persuasion.

4. Don’t Blame Yourself

Even if you overlooked what now appear to be glaring red flags, you aren't the first and, unfortunately, you won't be the last to do so. It's really tough to realize you're being conned in the heat of the moment. As a result, don't be too hard on yourself. Keep in mind that you are not a criminal. The criminal is the criminal, and the criminal is the criminal.

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