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Bank warns of sharp rise in Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp scams

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Bank customers are being warned about a spike in fraud taking place through companies owned by Meta, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

TSB analysed its customer fraud data comparing last year with 2021 in its top three scam categories: purchase, impersonation and investment fraud. 

The UK bank found that 80% of the purchase-fraud scams affecting its account holders took place on those sites owned by Meta, the parent company of the popular social media sites.

Facebook Marketplace led the way with 60% of purchase-fraud cases followed by Instagram with 18%. TSB said its refund-guarantee program had refunded 2,100 cases of Facebook Marketplace fraud as that type of scam against its customers nearly doubled during 2022.

A spike in WhatsApp cases

In the category of impersonation fraud, TSB found 86% of its cases were related to Meta sites with WhatsApp accounting for 65%, Facebook 13%, and text messages 13%. The bank reported an eye-opening spike in WhatsApp-based friends-and-family fraud, rising by 300% in the year. TSB said it had refunded more than 550 such cases.

Meta platforms also accounted for the lion’s share (87%) of investment fraud cases at TSB last year.

Nearly 60% began on Instagram and 22% on Facebook. Snapchat, which is not owned by Meta, accounted for 9% of investment fraud cases at TSB in 2022.

Online fraud is nothing new. In 2021, research from ClearScore suggested that Britons expected to lose a huge sum – £15.7bn – in the future to online fraudsters.

The bank’s data come one day after the Government announced a crackdown on web-based scammers.

‘Clean up their platforms’

TSB called for more to be done to hold social media companies to account.

Paul Davis, TSB’s director of fraud prevention, said: “Social media companies must urgently clean up their platforms to protect the countless innocent people who use their services every day. In the meantime, we are urging the public to remain cautious to potential scam content – and to spread the word to help protect those around you.

 “It’s high time that social media and telephone companies took financial liability for the rising levels of fraud taking place on their platforms.”

Scammers use ‘increasingly sophisticated methods’

A spokesperson for Meta said: “This is an industry-wide issue and scammers are using increasingly sophisticated methods to defraud people in a range of ways including email, SMS and offline. We don’t want anyone to fall victim to these criminals which is why our platforms have systems to block scams, financial services advertisers now have to be FCA authorised and we run consumer awareness campaigns on how to spot fraudulent behaviour.”

Meanwhile, TSB urged everyone to be extra vigilant about unexpected or suspicious messages claiming to be from relatives or close friends and before you send any cash, contact the person in another way to double check that the request is real.

If you are thinking of investing, TSB suggests you avoid too-good-to-be-true offers on social media and stick with recognised investment platforms.