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COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Sunday, someone made a post pleading for the community to rally together in support of their son in a West Columbia, Cayce, and Springdale community Facebook group. The post claimed that the person’s son had autism and learned graphic design. The post leads viewers to click the link embedded in the post to purchase one of the son’s t-shirt designs. Unfortunately, for some people, there were no t-shirts.
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A couple of hours after the initial post, members of the group posted a warning saying ‘it’s a scam.’ One Facebook user said you can find posts from different people with the exact same message. Another user said to some people the post would look normal to some people if they didn’t look at reviewing the person’s profile.
They weren’t alone. Jeff Jones, a Columbia resident, said this post waved too many red flags for him to believe it.
“It would make sense that they would want to get it to a large local place instead of one local link,” Jones said.
But everyone doesn’t have the knowledge to look beyond the post. Officer Kevin Wheeler with the South Carolina Federal Bureau of Investigation said that’s what scammers are hoping for.
“Unfortunately, people use social media to scam people out of their hard-earned money. And we see an increase of that every year,” Wheeler said.
According to the FBI’s 2021 IC3 report, South Carolina reported 458 social media scams last year. In addition to social media scams, there were 280 virtual currency scams. If you combine both crime reports that’s a total of $1.3 million.
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“What we found is that people committing these scams online are very creative. They know what types of activities young people use, what type of social media and sites that they’re going to,” Wheeler said.
He added scammers are also getting more personal, targeting people who are vulnerable and can relate to the story fronting scams.
“People are taking advantage of people’s kind hearts while they’re online and trying to exploit them,” Wheeler said.
Instead of just targeting an older audience, the FBI said scammers are evolving. Now they’re targeting younger crowds.
“I can tell you by looking at that IC3 report, people who are between the ages of 20 and 29 lost 1.6 million dollars in 2021,” Wheeler said.
The Better Business Bureau said there is a possibility of preventing those millions lost. President Chris Hadley said there are best practices when approaching online or risky purchases.
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“One of these other resources out there, PayPal will give you, I think PayPal has a 180-day guarantee on theirs that says that you can put in and file for a transaction to get your money back,” Hadley said.
He also added if you find yourself questioning a website, Google the site URL to find out who owns it or contact the Better Business Bureau.
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