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Reddit feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of the Internet.
It has a simple, straightforward design without all the clutter that surrounds most sites. You can find endless hours of information, entertainment, and conversation about almost anything you find interesting. Plus, it’s all free — there aren’t even very many ads.
But do you know what really makes Reddit feel different? It’s authentic.
When you go on Reddit, it’s full of real people offering their honest, unvarnished opinions. Most other sites serve crafted and curated content, sometimes with a tiny comments section at the bottom.
Reddit is just the opposite — the comments are the content. What’s fun and valuable about Reddit is hearing what normal people (not just authors or influencers) think about an issue, whether it’s lawn care, movies, or international politics.
The fact that Reddit feels like an extensive discussion between friends is great—but it comes with a hidden risk. And because of the nature of Reddit, many people overlook or ignore that risk…and face terrible consequences as a result.
Reddit scams are a real and growing problem — anyone who uses Reddit, whether constantly or occasionally, is at risk. But even people who rarely use Reddit could become victims too.
That’s why everyone needs to be aware of Reddit scams—how to spot them, avoid them, and recover from them. We cover all that in the following article.
Want to shut down scammers and their schemes? Keep reading.
Photo by Brett Jordan
What is Reddit?
Reddit is a social media site with a substantial user base. There were over 1 billion registered users, 1.7 monthly visitors, and 100,000 active communities on Reddit as of 2023.
Those active communities are known as “subreddits.” Each is focused on a specific topic: funny videos, NBA basketball, cookie recipes – you name it.
After joining the site, you subscribe to subreddits that interest you. People make posts within those subreddits, sparking discussion (often lengthy and something heated) between subscribers and, in many cases, visitors too.
It feels a lot like a smart, friendly debate between like-minded people who care a lot about some subject. That makes Reddit a great place to find people with similar interests who are eager to explore the finer points of whatever you care about.
From casual enthusiasts to absolute obsessives, Reddit attracts just about anyone, making it one of the best places online for information and discussion.
Reddit was created in 2005 by two college roommates. The concept was an instant success, steadily attracting users, but the growth of Reddit has been explosive in recent years.
Users created 2.7 billion pieces of content there in 2019. By 2021, it had more than doubled to 5.7 billion.
Similarly, 199 million active users in 2015 and 430 million by 2019.
The numbers make it clear: People are flocking to Reddit. Unfortunately, scammers are too.
What are Reddit Scams?
Any scam that takes advantage of Reddit to find victims, spread lies, or send malicious links falls under the definition of a Reddit scam.
How big is this problem? Reddit doesn’t reveal how many scams it learns about. Plus, many people who fall for scams on social media keep it to themselves. So we don’t know how bad the problem is, but we know it’s getting worse.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, scams that started on social media accounted for $134 million in total losses in 2019. In just the first six months of 2020, however, scammers stole $117 million through social media.
That suggests they’re targeting sites like Reddit more often. Even worse, the scams are working more often, snaring more victims and stealing larger sums.
Like wild animals that discover a plentiful food source, scammers will repeatedly return to the same target for as long as it makes them money. That’s why Reddit scams are common and growing.
But the reason Reddit scams work so well is the same reason people like the website in the first place: it feels honest and authentic. People trust one another. Most of the time, that leads to deep discussion and organic community building—both great things.
But trust can also be misplaced. And on Reddit, it’s possible to place that trust squarely in a scammer—and then things go from bad to worse.
Avoiding this fate starts by understanding the basics of these scams. The next section will cover some common examples. You’ve probably seen them on Reddit before…but did you know it was actually a scam?
See for yourself.
Photo by Erik Mclean
Examples of Reddit Scams
The sky is the limit when it comes to Reddit scams. The nature of the platform, where people can post and comment whatever they want (within reason) and send direct messages to whoever they choose, means that scams can take just about any form. The criminals running the scam are only bound by their creativity.
But you know what? They’re not that creative.
Reddit scammers tend to use the same strategies over and over again. That’s good news because it gives you some familiar patterns to look for. If you come across one of the examples below, there’s a high probability it’s a scam. Be very careful.
- The Crowdfunding Scam – A post or comment will ask for donations, explaining why it’s a worthy cause and where to send money. But either the reason wasn’t real, or it was, and the person collecting the donations kept the money. Either way, this is an example of how scammers use Reddit to prey on people’s good nature and steal money intended for causes that actually need it.
- The Direct Message Scam – A direct message will arrive, either expectedly or unexpectedly, with a link for you to follow. The link takes you to a site with something to download, a form to fill out, or a button to click. The site is fake, though, and exists only to download malware to your computer or steal personal information to commit identity theft. People think that phishing attempts can only come through email—but direct messages on Reddit are prime territory for them as well.
- The Debt Relief Scam – Scammers will find people on Reddit talking about financial stress and send them comments or DMs offering to help with debt relief. All you need to do is pay a small fee or provide credit card information for your financial stress to be solved. Except this is all a scam. None of your debt is gone…only your money or personal financial information.
- The Romance Scam – Reddit is a great way to connect with new people, including potential romantic partners. People are typically receptive when they receive comments or DMs of an intimate nature. Yet often, the person at the other end is not who they claim to be, sending fake pictures and telling lies to gain their victim’s trust and affection. Soon they ask for money, often repeatedly, promising that it’s urgent and the favor will be returned. It won’t. The whole thing is a charade. When the money stops, so does the attention and affection.
- The Cryptocurrency Scam – People interested in cryptocurrency and alternative investing tend to congregate on Reddit. It’s not unusual to hear people talking about new crypto investment opportunities and promising amazing returns. Some of these promises are exaggerated (by a lot) to get you to put money into risky investments. Others are outright false, designed to steal whatever you decide to invest.
- The Spam Ring Scam – Reddit has an upvote system: the more upvotes a post or comment gets, the more people see it. So when a post or comment is prominent, it seems even more authentic because other people have endorsed it. But those other people could be fake, part of large spam rings that upvote Reddit scams to get them in front of more people and put people at ease (this must be real, right?). This is just one example of how scammers will use the features of Reddit in nefarious ways, turning something fun into a tool for fraud.
Photo by Brett Jordan
How to Spot Reddit Scams
Remember: Reddit scams can take many forms, and they have many ways to hide the red flags. You may not be able to spot one of these scams—even if you know what to look for, watch carefully for warning signs, and do everything right.
No prevention is 100% perfect. Just like all scams, Reddit scams will never go away or stop working. That said, you’re much less likely to become a target or a victim if you know how to spot Reddit scams. Keep the list below on your radar. And if any of these come up, be extremely careful and strongly consider ending contact immediately. The sooner you disengage with scams, the better.
- Young Accounts – Scammers abandon accounts and create new ones frequently. Accounts less than 24 hours old are highly suspicious, less than a week old are still suspicious, and less than 30 days are risky. However, older accounts can still be scams.
- Private Messages – It’s unusual if someone contacts you through direct message rather than in the comments—especially if you had no prior contact with them. The best policy is to ignore these messages. If you must respond, ask them to engage in the comments section. If they can’t or won’t for any reason, it’s likely a scam,
- Low Karma – Accounts with low karma haven’t posted or commented very much, suggesting that the account may be new or seldom used. Scammers create these “throwaway” accounts in bulk and use them as necessary to overcome objections about newer accounts.
- Amazing Claims – Anything on Reddit that promises something too good to be true—huge investment returns, immediate debt cancellation, marriage proposals—is probably a scam. Reddit moderators will often remove these claims, but some subreddits have less moderation, and some scams are very subtle.
- Pressure Tactics – If someone on Reddit is pressuring you to act fast by suggesting that an opportunity will go away soon or there will be a penalty for moving too slowly, they may be manipulating you. Plenty of legitimate offers are time-sensitive, but scammers commonly use this tactic to get people to send money or information before they have time to think logically about risks and red flags.
- Telling Lies – When something doesn’t add up, don’t write it off. Small lies are not mistakes—they’re evidence of bigger lies. Most people on Reddit have no reason to lie. So when someone is being less than 100% honest, especially when there’s money involved, treat that as a serious warning.
- Extreme Flexibility – Scammers will say anything, literally anything, to get you on the hook. If you connect with someone on Reddit who seems willing to agree with you or accommodate you to an extreme degree, it’s likely because they have an ulterior motive.
- How to Avoid Reddit Scams You are the first, best, and (in many ways) only defense against scams. That’s true on Reddit and everywhere else.
So how do you avoid them…especially when they’re trying too hard to get your attention?
You should alter your browsing habits slightly. You may want to take some proactive measures as well. But you don’t need to avoid reading, posting, or commenting on Reddit. Just take these common-sense precautions around the site:
- Do Some Outside Research – Before donating to a charity or investing in a hot crypto token, research Reddit. Plug the details into Google and see what comes up. Do the same for the username you’re communicating with. Verify anything and everything. And if you can’t verify something, assume it’s fake.
- Never Click on Random Links – There are links all over Reddit. Most are safe, but some lead to malicious websites trying to steal your data or infect your computer—sometimes, just clicking the link is enough to cause damage. Scammers can also make malicious links look safe. Your best bet is to click nothing on Reddit—search for the video, article, or song instead.
- Keep Your Personal/Financial Info Secret – Never give your personal information (social security number, address, phone number) or financial information (banking info, credit card numbers, insurance info) to anyone on Reddit. Don’t do it for any reason. If you have some legitimate reason to exchange this info, do it through more official channels.
- Video Chat With Romantic Partners – Ask anyone proposing a romantic relationship to meet in person or, at the very least, have a video chat before sending them any money. A scammer pretending to be someone else will avoid having to get on camera (or even on the phone) for any reason. This same policy applies to Reddit “friends” who ask you to send them money.
- Get Identity Theft Protection – The troubling truth is this: anyone can fall for a Reddit scam if they encounter the right message at the right place and the right time. You can avoid most scams, but no one can avoid ALL scams. That’s where identity theft protection comes into play. If someone manages to steal your identity or pick you as a prime target, professional defenders work on your behalf to keep the damage from getting worse. Whether it’s preventing attacks, stopping the damage, or keeping the consequences in check, identity theft protection comes through big when you have the misfortune to cross paths with scammers.
How to Recover from Reddit Scams
Let’s start with something tough but important to hear: You probably aren’t going to recover the money you lost to a Reddit scam. You probably aren’t going to figure out who was behind the scam. And you probably won’t ever see that person brought to justice or punished for what they did, either.
But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless.
Second, immediately stop all contact with the scammer. Send them no further money, information, or updates. Do not announce your intention to cut them off. And resist the urge to send them threats or insults (even if it’s very tempting). You keep yourself safer and start the recovery process sooner by ending contact now. Be prepared to ignore repeated messages from scammers trying to get you to reengage.
Finally, if you get wrapped up in a Reddit scam or any scam, strongly consider getting identity theft protection. Unfortunately, the damage happens repeatedly for many people who get scammed, and the problem gets worse before it gets better. If one scammer has your details or knows you’re a target, other scammers probably also have this intel. You need to be on guard. And with identity theft protection such as Aura in your corner, future scammers will have a much harder time than the scammer who started this all.
The Internet is where most scams start these days, and social media sites like Reddit are ground zero. In a subreddit focused on your favorite niche, surrounded by people with similar interests, it’s easy to let your guard down and trust the wrong people as a result. It’s also easy to avoid the vast majority of Reddit scams—all you need is the information outlined in the sections above. Commit it to memory, put it into practice – and you become the kind of person scammers wish they never messed with.
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