Instagram scams are on the rise. Social media fraudsters are continually developing new ways to exploit the app and its users, stealing data, personal accounts, and money. Find out how Instagram scams work and how you can protect yourself from them.
An Instagram scam involves some kind of fraud or attack taking place on the social media app Instagram. There are many internet scams, of course, but Instagram is particularly popular with bad actors because of its huge user base.
Instagram, which is owned by Meta (the parent company of Facebook and WhatsApp) is one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, with more than a billion users and consistently impressive growth. The app has suffered security issues in the past, however. Because of a bug discovered in 2020, hackers on Instagram could capture your device with relative ease. Though that issue will now have been resolved, it shows that Instagram is not always risk-free.
While the app focuses on visual media, like photos and videos, it also allows users to message each other privately — an essential feature for most fraudsters. Instagram scams come in many forms, which we’ll cover below.
Instagram scams vary widely in style and strategy, but here are the most common examples.
While Instagram scam emails are a risk, scammers are more likely to contact people through direct messages (or DMs) urging victims to click a link that then initiates a malware download. It’s very easy for someone to set up a fake account and pretend to be a legitimate company or celebrity.
With this fake account as cover, the fraudster then messages Instagram users to tell them they’ve won a valuable item or have been selected to take part in a prize draw. For example, bitcoin Instagram scams often involve the attacker offering to send a victim bitcoin. To claim the bitcoin or enter the competition, the victim just needs to click a link, which in turn infects their device with malware.
If a hacker can break into someone else’s Instagram account, either using malware (perhaps delivered through phishing messages) or by cracking a weak password, they can then use the account to launch a variety of attacks on the account owner’s contacts and friends. While this could involve targeted phishing attacks through direct messages, it might also take place via Stories. Instagram Stories are visual posts that last for 24 hours and can contain text and, crucially, links.
Instagram is a free app, which means that much of its monetization strategy relies on advertising. While that in itself isn’t a problem, the sheer volume of ads being submitted and displayed through Instagram makes it hard for the company to check them thoroughly for potential scams. As a result, bad actors may be able to promote bogus products, malware-infected links, and other scams through Instagram ads.
Catfishing involves a scammer masquerading as someone else: either a real or stolen identity or a completely fabricated one. For this kind of Instagram scammer pictures are important; they want to create an authentic-looking fake identity. Using a catfish account as a front, they might attempt to earn someone’s trust and perhaps even establish a romantic connection, in the case of so-called romance Instagram scammers.
Eventually, the catfish can ask the target for financial aid — perhaps to get them out of an alleged sudden and unforeseen crisis overseas. As soon as the money is transferred, they can delete their account and vanish.
Learn to identify the small red flags that indicate an Instagram scam. Here are some of the most notable.
Was your Instagram hacked? You can still take several steps to keep yourself safe and to limit the risks to other people.
Here are three simple rules to follow to protect yourself from Instagram scammers in the future.
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