Americans Lost $1 Billion To Romance Scammers Last Year, FBI Says

About 24,000 Americans lost a reported $1 billion to romance scammers during 2021, the FBI estimated Thursday, marking what the Federal Trade Commission said was the most lucrative year for romance scammers on record—with many scam artists luring their victims into sending cryptocurrency.

The FTC—which only counts scams reported to its Consumer Sentinel Network, a database for scams and crimes like identity theft—said Thursday losses from romance scams rose to $547 million in 2021, up from $307 million in 2020 and $202 million in 2019.

About 25% of losses from scams reported to the FTC last year were paid in cryptocurrency, with the median individual cryptocurrency loss at $9,770, and the agency said a growing number of scammers have tricked victims with fake cryptocurrency investment advice.

Though reports of romance scams increased for every age group, the increase was greatest for people ages 18 to 29, though people in that group reported a median loss of only $750, compared to $9,000 among people age 70 and up, the group for whom losses were greatest.

Though the number of cryptocurrency-related scams grew almost fivefold from 2020 to 2021, gift or reload cards were the most frequent method of payment, used in about 28% of last year’s scams, compared to cryptocurrency at 18%, payment apps or services at 14%, bank transfers or payments at 13% and wire transfers at 12%, according to the FTC.

Many people targeted by romance scammers are initially contacted on dating apps, but more than a third of last year’s victims told the FTC they were first contacted on Facebook or Instagram.

The precipitous increase in online romance scams has coincided with a pandemic-driven increase in social isolation and a reliance on technology to meet social needs. Tinder users sent 19% more messages per day in February 2021 compared to February 2020, and conversation length grew 32% over pre-pandemic levels, the company said.

Romance scammers create fake online profiles using photos swiped from the web, often creating identities with built-in excuses for not being available to meet in person, such as serving in the military overseas. Once a scammer has gained the trust of their victim, they may request money to help resolve a supposed crisis, such as paying for medical treatment for a sick child or resolving “processing fees” to release funds that would otherwise be in jeopardy.

To guard against these scams, the FBI said anyone looking to start a romantic relationship online should “go slowly and ask lots of questions,” consider researching the other person’s photos to see if they have been used elsewhere and avoid sending money, cryptocurrency or gift cards before meeting in-person.“We need to be wary about casting certain groups as the ‘natural’ victims of scams,” Sarah Rutherford, senior director of portfolio marketing, global, fraud and compliance at analytics firm FICO, told Forbes.

“The idea of the lonely, old woman struggling to use a computer to connect with the world can make others feel it would never happen to them and lower their defenses.”

In 2012, pioneering particle physicist Paul Frampton was arrested in Buenos Aires after checking a suitcase with 2 kilograms of cocaine concealed in the lining. Frampton, who was convicted of drug smuggling in Argentina and sentenced to four years and eight months in prison, said he was lured into becoming a drug mule by a romance scammer posing as a professional swimwear model.

Though the FBI on Thursday published an approximate figure of $1 billion in reported losses to romance scammers in 2021, a precise figure will not be available until the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s annual report is finalized. Additionally, many victims of romance scams likely did not report their losses, the FBI said.

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I cover breaking news for Forbes. Previously, I was editor for The Cordova Times newspaper in Cordova, Alaska. In 2018, I obtained a Master of Journalism degree at the University of Melbourne. From 2015-2017, I headed Chess For The Gambia, a youth development project.

Source: Americans Lost $1 Billion To Romance Scammers Last Year, FBI Says

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Critics:

Internet fraud is a type of cybercrime fraud or deception which makes use of the Internet and could involve hiding of information or providing incorrect information for the purpose of tricking victims out of money, property, and inheritance. Internet fraud is not considered a single, distinctive crime but covers a range of illegal and illicit actions that are committed in cyberspace.

It is, however, differentiated from theft since, in this case, the victim voluntarily and knowingly provides the information, money or property to the perpetrator. It is also distinguished by the way it involves temporally and spatially separated offenders.

According to the FBI‘s 2017 Internet Crime Report, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received about 300,000 complaints. Victims lost over $1.4 billion in online fraud in 2017. According to a study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and McAfee, cybercrime costs the global economy as much as $600 billion, which translates into 0.8% of total global GDP.

Online fraud appears in many forms. It ranges from email spam to online scams. Internet fraud can occur even if partly based on the use of Internet services and is mostly or completely based on the use of the Internet.

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Key Elements of Effective Social Media Videos

Video is all the rage today. It’s due to its effectiveness in driving reach and engagement. In fact, most social media platforms have started to give video content more visibility in feeds.

The introduction of Reels and IGTV on Instagram and Facebook Watch is a testament to the fact that the appeal for videos has only increased over the years.

About 85% of internet users in the US watched online videos in 2018, and a majority of internet users say that the trend of watching more online videos will continue, even after the COVID-19 outbreak ends.

With so much video content being uploaded by the minute — over 500 hours on YouTube in 2019 — it’s going to be difficult to stand out from the crowd.

To do so, you need to create stellar videos. How can you do so? You need to understand the key elements of a social media video. What are these key elements, you ask? Let’s take a look at them.

Main Elements of a Social Media Video

Here are the main elements of a social media video that can help improve engagement.

1. The Social Platform

When you’re creating any video for social media, it’s important to know which platform you’re creating it for. Why?Because each social platform has different audiences, and what may appeal to users on one platform might not on another.

TikTok and Instagram are platforms where you’d typically have millennials or Gen Z. On the other hand, on Facebook and Twitter, you can find a wider user base. So, it’s crucial to tailor your videos for each of these platforms.

Similarly, what may work on all of these platforms may not work on LinkedIn at all as it’s a professional social networking platform. And that’s not all. Each platform also has a different set of video formats that work the best on them.

Facebook vs. Instagram video formats

For instance, if you’re uploading a video to Facebook, you’d likely upload a landscape version of the video for Facebook Watch. On the other hand, if you’re creating one for Instagram, options like Reels, Stories, and IGTV prefer portrait modes.

Resizing your videos can be challenging. However, by using tools like Boosted, you can simplify this task as the tool will automatically size all the videos you create based on the dimensions that work best on the social platform of your choice.

Pro Tip: It’s equally important that you upload your videos directly to the platform instead of sharing them from one platform to another.

2. Video Length

The length of the video is an important parameter that you need to be mindful of. While scrolling through feeds, users may not devote a lot of time to your video unless it catches their attention.

That’s why you need to ensure that the most impactful parts of your video are right at the beginning. The idea is to hook the user to your video so that they watch the rest of it.

But wait, there’s more.

The platforms that you upload your videos to impact the video length as well. For instance, if you’re uploading a video to Instagram, you’ll be faced with multiple options.

How long should Instagram videos be?

If you’re posting a video on Instagram Stories, the maximum length per Story is 15 seconds. On the other hand, if you’re uploading it to Reels, the video needs to be 30 seconds long. However, IGTV videos can be as long as 60 minutes.

So, while developing your video, make sure that you know where you’re going to post it so that you can drive social engagement through it.

3. Video Graphics

The graphics that you use in your videos are equally important.These visuals can help you captivate the attention of your audience. That’s why you need to do everything that you can to ensure that they appear exactly like you want them to.

With nearly 70% of YouTube watch time coming from mobile devices, it’s clear that you need to design your videos for mobile devices.But how?For starters, you should try to use simple video graphics that can be easily viewed on mobile devices. Also, you need to ensure that the various elements within your video are spaced well enough for the viewers to be able to distinguish them.

The same applies to video thumbnails. When you create them using a tool like Canva, make sure that you check how they will look on smaller screens. In addition, mobile devices may not always be connected to WiFi. Many users may be using data to browse the internet and watch videos.

However, while people are on the move, data speeds might fluctuate. As a result, they may not be able to stream videos at the speeds that they would typically get over WiFi.

If your video file size is large, it’s likely that the video may not load well. When this happens, your viewers may move on to the next post. After all, no one likes to wait a long time for videos to load.

How can you avoid this?

You can create videos that have smaller sizes. This will make it easier for the viewers to stream them.

To ensure that all of these things are taken into consideration while creating videos, ensure that your content marketing strategy outlines the steps needed to be taken for mobile devices.

4. Video Sound

As mentioned above, most people watch videos on mobile devices. And when they do, it’s highly likely that they will be on the move or in public places too. In such a situation, not everyone uses earphones to watch the videos.

As a result, people tend to watch videos without sound. In fact, a survey found that 69% of consumers in the US watch videos on mobile devices without sound in public places. But here’s the thing — 25% of them even watch them without sound when they’re in private places.

So, if you want your video to appeal to this huge chunk of your audience, you need to ensure that it gives the same effect without audio. While you’re designing the video, try adding subtitles or text to get the message across without any sound.

Pro Tip: Before you upload the video, go through it without the audio. Try to see if it’s still equally engaging. If so, you can go ahead and upload it.

Final Thoughts

Creating social media videos can help increase your reach and drive engagement. However, to craft videos that can do so effectively, it’s critical to understand the key elements of these videos and use them to your advantage.

You need to design your videos based on the platform and also change the dimensions accordingly. Also, it’s equally important to decide on the video’s length as it’s dictated by the format in which you’re going to upload it.What’s more?

The video graphics need to be designed for mobile devices, as most videos are watched using mobile devices.Finally, a huge number of people watch videos without sound. So, you must ensure that the videos appear equally engaging without it too.

By: Shane Barker

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Fake Accounts Are Constantly Manipulating What You See on Social Media Here’s How

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Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram started out as a way to connect with friends, family and people of interest. But anyone on social media these days knows it’s increasingly a divisive landscape.

Undoubtedly you’ve heard reports that hackers and even foreign governments are using social media to manipulate and attack you. You may wonder how that is possible. As a professor of computer science who researches social media and security, I can explain – and offer some ideas for what you can do about it.

Bots and sock puppets

Social media platforms don’t simply feed you the posts from the accounts you follow. They use algorithms to curate what you see based in part on “likes” or “votes.”

A post is shown to some users, and the more those people react – positively or negatively – the more it will be highlighted to others. Sadly, lies and extreme content often garner more reactions and so spread quickly and widely.

But who is doing this “voting”? Often it’s an army of accounts, called bots, that do not correspond to real people. In fact, they’re controlled by hackers, often on the other side of the world. For example, researchers have reported that more than half of the Twitter accounts discussing COVID-19 are bots.

Fake accounts like this are called “sock puppets” – suggesting a hidden hand speaking through another identity. In many cases, this deception can easily be revealed with a look at the account history. But in some cases, there is a big investment in making sock puppet accounts seem real.

For example, Jenna Abrams, an account with 70,000 followers, was quoted by mainstream media outlets like The New York Times for her xenophobic and far-right opinions, but was actually an invention controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-funded troll farm and not a living, breathing person.

Sowing chaos

Trolls often don’t care about the issues as much as they care about creating division and distrust. For example, researchers in 2018 concluded that some of the most influential accounts on both sides of divisive issues, like Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, were controlled by troll farms.

More than just fanning disagreement, trolls want to encourage a belief that truth no longer exists. Divide and conquer. Distrust anyone who might serve as a leader or trusted voice. Cut off the head. Demoralize. Confuse. Each of these is a devastating attack strategy.

Even as a social media researcher, I underestimate the degree to which my opinion is shaped by these attacks. I think I am smart enough to read what I want, discard the rest and step away unscathed.

Still, when I see a post that has millions of likes, part of me thinks it must reflect public opinion. The social media feeds I see are affected by it and, what’s more, I am affected by the opinions of my real friends, who are also influenced.

The entire society is being subtly manipulated to believe they are on opposite sides of many issues when legitimate common ground exists.

I have focused primarily on US-based examples, but the same types of attacks are playing out around the world. By turning the voices of democracies against each other, authoritarian regimes may begin to look preferable to chaos.

Platforms have been slow to act. Sadly, misinformation and disinformation drives usage and is good for business.

Failure to act has often been justified with concerns about freedom of speech. Does freedom of speech include the right to create 100,000 fake accounts with the express purpose of spreading lies, division and chaos?

Taking control

So what can you do about it? You probably already know to check the sources and dates of what you read and forward, but common-sense media literacy advice is not enough.

First, use social media more deliberately. Choose to catch up with someone in particular, rather than consuming only the default feed.

You might be amazed to see what you’ve been missing. Help your friends and family find your posts by using features like pinning key messages to the top of your feed.

Second, pressure social media platforms to remove accounts with clear signs of automation. Ask for more controls to manage what you see and which posts are amplified. Ask for more transparency in how posts are promoted and who is placing ads. For example, complain directly about the Facebook news feed here or tell legislators about your concerns.

Third, be aware of the trolls’ favorite issues and be skeptical of them. They may be most interested in creating chaos, but they also show clear preferences on some issues.

For example, trolls want to reopen economies quickly without real management to flatten the COVID-19 curve. They also clearly supported one of the 2016 US presidential candidates over the other. It’s worth asking yourself how these positions might be good for Russian trolls, but bad for you and your family.

Perhaps most importantly, use social media sparingly, like any other addictive, toxic substance, and invest in more real-life community building conversations. Listen to real people, real stories and real opinions, and build from there. The Conversation

By: Jeanna Matthews, Full Professor, Computer Science, Clarkson University

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

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