With over 1.21 billion monthly active users, Instagram comprises over 28% of the world’s internet users. At times it might seem that everyone’s on Instagram. Any social media platform with an audience of this magnitude is bound to attract scammers looking to cash in on unsuspecting users. Unsurprisingly, Instagram is a fertile ground for a variety of scams. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid falling victim to an Instagram scam by being aware of what they look like and having basic cybersecurity know-how.
Common Instagram scams
Instagram provides the perfect breeding ground for online scams due to its large user base. Here are some of the most common ones.
Phishing scams are among the most common types of online fraud. They’ve been around for as long as the internet itself. In the context of Instagram, phishing scams rely on the same old tactics. Usually attackers send out messages masquerading as legitimate sources in an attempt to trick users into clicking malicious links. The end goal of all phishing scams is the same: to gain access to sensitive information such as passwords and usernames and then use it to make a profit. In essence, most scams on Instagram fall under the umbrella of phishing.
Lottery and giveaway scams
If you’ve been using Instagram for a hot minute, you more than likely have come across an influencer that promotes sponsored lotteries or giveaways of some sort. And let’s be honest: who doesn't like free stuff? Well, scammers are well aware of that and tend to exploit unsuspecting users with fake messages telling they’ve won some sort of lottery or giveaway, but they will need to cover shipping or provide some sort of personal information.
False investment scams
Much like faux lottery and giveaway scams, false investment scams exploit people’s wish to get something quickly and for free. Usually, false investment scams promise a quick way to make a fortune. Lately, scammers have been trying to push cryptocurrency investing, telling potential victims that a small investment can yield rewards beyond their wildest imaginations. Unfortunately, if a user falls for the scam, the money they “invest” usually disappears within minutes and the scammers can no longer be reached.
Fake job scams are also prevalent on Instagram. Usually, job scams offer opportunities that are too good to be true. For instance a job that does not require any qualifications but offers a large pay. Because people are curious creatures, it’s not surprising that quite a few fall for the scam. The end scammers’ end goal is to lure out as much personal information about you as possible.
Loan scams, like many other scams discussed here, fall under the category of “too good to be true” scams. Usually, bad actors will offer loans with an amazing interest rate. In reality, it is just a scheme to extract deposits from unsuspecting people. In most instances, once the deposit is made, the scammers are nowhere to be found.
Accounts that impersonate popular brands and inauthentic sellers
Shopping through Instagram is more popular than ever, and bad actors know that and do their best to take advantage of it. Often scammers will set up accounts that closely mimic popular brands and will offer good prices to lure users into spending money for the good they’ll never receive.
Usually, romance scams – also known as catfishing – are associated with dating apps. However, they are not limited to those types of apps. In most cases, romance scams take time. They start out with courtship by commenting under your posts or direct messages. Once the bad actor believes that they have their victim wrapped around their finger, they will start asking for money and in most cases will disappear once they get it.
Paid subscription services
Bad actors looking to make a profit might offer one-time payment for a life-time subscription to a variety of online services. The reality of the matter is that there is no subscription. In fact, most online services do not rely on third parties to sell subscriptions. Like with other scams, bad actors will take your money and will be gone as soon as they see the transfer go through.
Signs of a scammer on Instagram
There are a variety of ways to spot a scam on Instagram and they always involve simple awareness. Here are some things that you shouldn’t overlook when using Instagram.
The scammer uses an unverified profile
One of the biggest red flags that you’re interacting with a scam account on Instagram is the fact that it is not verified. Legitimate accounts that offer some sort of service tend to be verified by Instagram.
The scammer makes grammar and spelling mistakes
Poor grammar is a classic giveaway in most online scams. If you notice that a message that offers you goods or services is written poorly, take it as a major red flag.
The scammer tries to persuade you to click on a link
Another dead giveaway that you’re being scammed is a message that urges you to click a specific link or download some sort of an attachment. Rarely do legitimate services ask you to do so.
The scammer offers you something too good to be true
Anything that seems too good to be true more than likely is. Use your common sense. If you see the latest iPhone going for $50, you’re being scammed.
What to do if you get scammed on Instagram
Some scams are more sophisticated than others, and there’s no shame in falling for one. However, if you did fall for a scam on Instagram, it is crucial to understand that it can have disastrous outcomes if not taken seriously and not acted upon in a timely manner. Here are a few things you should do immediately if you’ve fallen victim to an Instagram scam.
Monitor your financial accounts and contact your bank
The end objective of any scammer is to make a profit by whatever means necessary. So if you ever fall victim to an online scam, make sure to inform your bank about potentially suspicious activity.
Change your password
Being scammed online often means having your sensitive information stolen. Often that information includes password and username, and if you happen to reuse passwords across multiple accounts, scammers will have access to all of the accounts protected by that single password. That’s why it’s a good idea to change all your passwords on all of your online accounts as soon as you find out that you’ve been scammed.
Freeze your credit
If necessary, block your credit or debit cards and put a limit on transactions to ensure that your finances are not affected.
Report the scam to Instagram
Make sure to report a scam on Instagram if you ever fall victim to one. It can help the platform take action and limit scammers’ reach. Visit Instagram’s Help Center for detailed instructions on how to report different types of scams.
How to avoid scams on Instagram
Set your account as private
Instagram, like other social media platforms, allows you to make your account private, which limits who can see your posts on the platform and who can interact with you. By setting your account to private, you will be able to avoid suspicious messages from potential scammers.
Use strong passwords
A strong password is essential to ensure the security of your Instagram account. If you’re using a simple, easy-to-remember password to secure your account, all you are doing is making a hacker's job easier. A strong password should be at least 12 characters long and combine numbers, special symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters.
For easy management and for an easier way to remember strong and unique passwords, you may want to consider getting a password manager such as NordPass. Password managers provide a single secure place to store and access your passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive information. Plus, a password manager can also improve your overall online experience.
Don't reuse passwords
Using the same password for multiple accounts is just as bad as using weak passwords because if a bad actor gets their hands on that single password, they will instantly have access to multiple accounts. Coming up with strong passwords for all of your accounts can be quite annoying, but with a Password Generator, that process is quick and easy.
Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides an extra layer of security and requires an additional step of verification beyond a password and a username. Usually, the additional verification step is something known as a one-time password (OTP), which comes in the form of a four-digit code that is sent to you via an authentication app, SMS, or email message. By enabling MFA, your accounts will remain secure even if your password is compromised.
Never click on suspicious links
Clicking on a suspicious link is a sure way to get malicious software on your device. Refrain from clicking on links that come from unknown sources. It is extremely rare for a legitimate service provider to urge you to click on a link or download an attachment.
Only buy from verified profiles
If you’re a frequent Instagram shopper, make sure to stick to verified sellers only. Don’t take chances with unverified profiles even if the deal looks amazing.
Monitor your login activity
Most social media platforms, including Instagram, will send you an email warning if suspicious login activity is detected. Don’t ignore these warnings. Take them seriously and act on them.
Instagram can be an amazing platform. It can be fun, interesting, and at times even educational. It provides an awesome way to stay connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, it is also a place that attracts the very worst people on the internet — scammers. But as long as you take the time to educate yourself about the potential dangers that lurk on the platform and stay vigilant about it, you will have nothing to worry about.