The ways in which scams are perpetrated continually shift due to the rising use of technologies (such as social media), consumer behavior patterns, world events, and other factors. According to a report by the Institute for Marketplace Trust, a division of the Better Business Bureau, online scams rose 87% between 2015 and 2022, while phone scams dropped 42%. In 2022, online scams are most prevalent overall (55%), with a higher percentage of people losing money when targeted this way (75%). Nearly 83% of those targeted online said they paid via credit card, online payment system, or bank account debit.
The top two areas that people are targeted while online are while using social media (25%) or doing online shopping (24%).
However, not all scams begin online. Scammers use other means to push people online, such as sending a link in a text, a phone call, or in the mail. Text messages are especially risky, with an $800 median dollar loss across all scam types as of October 2022. But scams perpetrated directly online that included a monetary loss were reported more than all other methods.
Eighty-two percent of online scammers used impersonation as a tactic, and half of those pretended to be a trustworthy business (Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Microsoft, etc.). People who lost money to an impersonation scam were almost twice as likely to lose money as those exposed to other types of tactics.
How can you protect yourself from online scams?
Tips from the Better Business Bureau
- If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Price is often a strong motivator for people to buy—be cautious about a ‘great’ deal.
- Make sure the shipping company is legitimate. Go to their website and use the code you receive to make sure it’s the real deal, and search bbb.org on the company name.
- Avoid an impersonation scheme—be cautious about who contacts you. Ask for verification and do your research with a trusted source. Be skeptical about unsolicited offers, and don’t believe everything you see—scammers are great at mimicking logos, official seals, fonts, etc.
- When you’re visiting a website, check the URL to make sure it’s correct. Sometimes even one character can be off. Watch for bad grammar in the content, make sure the
- URL starts with ‘https’ and has a secure lock. You can also use an online domain age checker to be sure it’s not a brand new site. And check that they have their full name/address/contact info on their website, not just an online form.
- NEVER click on unsolicited text messages.
- Avoid making quick purchase decisions. And don’t base your decision solely on others’ reviews.
- Use secure and traceable transactions. Those who used a credit card or PayPal were most likely to recover their funds from a scam.