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Social Media Is Changing The Way We Get Scammed:
Do You Know How To Keep Safe Online?

APP Fraud

As banks review and upgrade their procedures to keep consumers safe from scams, social media companies also need to shoulder some of the blame and combat the risk.

Social Media Is Changing The Way We Get Scammed: Do You Know How To Keep Safe Online?

Over the past several years, banks and regulators in the UK have managed to reduce the number and impact of so-called ‘unauthorised’ scams. In these scams, scammers use customers’ details (acquired via phishing or malware) to access their bank accounts and transfer money out. These scams are ‘unauthorised’ because the customer is usually completely unaware that the transactions are taking place until everything is gone.

Implementing stricter ID checks and authentication measures has gone a long way to reducing unauthorised fraud – which is positive news for customers – but it made scammers pivot their tactics so they could continue to get their hands on victims’ money. This led to the rise in Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud, where scammers use social engineering techniques, such as impersonation and manipulation, to contact the victim directly and convince them to willingly transfer money out of their bank accounts.

Social media and artificial intelligence (AI) are seemingly making it easier for victims to be approached, manipulated, and persuaded into parting with their money, but industry experts say online platforms should do more to mitigate the growing risk.

Many types of APP fraud that begin on social media involve an element of impersonation, manipulation, or misdirection, which convinces the victim of the scam’s legitimacy. Some common types of scams the TLW scam team regularly sees originating on the platforms include:

  • Fake celebrity endorsements: we have written a number of times on our blog about the use of AI to make pictures – and even videos – depicting celebrities and public figures (such as Martin Lewis) endorsing products or investments on social media.
  • Fake investment advertisements: the relative ease with which scammers can set up business pages means they’re able to also run social media adverts with claims of ‘low-risk, high return’ investments, which are either unregulated or simply do not exist.
  • Romance scams: scammers use social media to target those looking for love, often using the platforms’ built-in messaging service. They will use the information on victims’ profiles to establish trust and start a ‘relationship’ before eventually asking for money.
  • Ticket purchase scams: the rise in competition for ticketed events such as gigs and festivals (including Taylor Swift and Glastonbury) has seen scammers claim to be selling tickets on social media resale pages – often for a ‘too good to be true’ price – which are either fake or do not exist.

In most cases, if a deal, investment, romantic partner, or purchase found through social media seems too good to be true, it probably is.

While banks have begun to crack down on APP scams taking place on their accounts and are shouldering more of the liability for such scams, the industry is calling for more to be done by social media platforms themselves.

Lloyds Bank Fraud Prevention Director Liz Ziegler has also commented:

“It’s time tech companies stepped up to share responsibility for protecting their own customers. This means stopping scams at the source and contributing to refunds when their platforms are used to defraud innocent victims.”

Although it can be tempting to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ and share your life on social media, this can give scammers a little too much insight into your life, information that they can use to access your money. It’s also important not to believe everything you see or read on social media and to proceed with caution when it comes to purchasing or signing up for anything you see.

Some practical steps you can take to keep yourself safe include:

  1. Create and frequently update strong passwords and have different passwords for each account rather than using the same one.
  2. Always set up two-factor authentication.
  3. Check your privacy settings for any information or details that scammers could use to access your accounts or manipulate you as part of an impersonation scam.
  4. If purchasing products through social media, check the company’s website and other details to ensure that you are dealing with the legitimate account: it is often safer to go to the company’s website directly to make purchases rather than through a link on social media.
  5. If you’re considering a financial investment, speak to a specialist adviser regulated by the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Spending a little money initially to save your finances in the long term could be a shrewd long term investment!
  6. Use the FCA’s Warning List to check if the firm you’re dealing with is on their radar as one to avoid and double-check the firm’s contact details on the FCA website.
  7. Always treat unsolicited contact via social media with suspicion, and never send money to someone you have never met in person, especially if they are trying to start some sort of relationship.

Scams have become so sophisticated in recent years, using tactics such as cloned websites and spoofed contact details to trick you, that they can be difficult to spot. However, there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed if you or a loved one have fallen victim to a scam – you are not alone.

If you find yourself the victim of a social media or other APP fraud scam, you should report it to Action Fraud, the police and your bank. Your bank should investigate and try to recover your money.

If this is not possible, or if you are unsatisfied with their response, other options are available to try and recover your losses, including making a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to look into your case. FOS is an independent body set up to settle disputes between financial institutions and their customers.

Sarah Spruce, Legal Director and Head of the APP Fraud team at TLW Solicitors, commented:

“The convenience and familiarity of social media can often lull us into a false sense of security when it comes to our privacy and security. Scammers can exploit the information and tools available on social media to convincingly target unsuspecting victims in a variety of sneaky and sophisticated ways. Social media platforms and banks should both be looking out for the best interests of their users and clamping down on scammers using their services.”

If you, a friend, colleague, or loved one, are the victim of a social media scam, please get in touch for a no-obligation assessment of your case. We work on a no-win, no-fee basis, meaning that if we take on your refund case and it is unsuccessful, you do not pay us anything.

You can call us on 0800 169 5925, email us at info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk, or complete one of the forms below.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible, as strict time limits can apply.
Minimum case values apply.


Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.