Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become a crucial part of our daily lives. For better or worse, they provide seamless communication, business promotion, online transactions, romantic connections, and, of course, a never-ending supply of delightful cat videos.
In 2022, social media scams accounted for $1.2 billion in losses.
Scammers are continuously looking for ways to exploit unsuspecting people and profit from their vulnerability. Due to the low cost of signing up, social media platforms are an ideal gateway for these scammers to operate in. Aside from that, the ability to hide behind fake profiles and the sharing culture make social media the perfect setting for scams.
In this article, we’re going to focus on Instagram scams that have become an overwhelmingly popular hunting ground for cybercriminals. Obviously, we’ll give you some tips on how to avoid them- we wouldn’t leave you hanging. Let’s dive in.
How secure are your online accounts?
Remember, being able to notice the scam is the first step in staying safe online, but normally, we only realize it once it's too late. That’s where having a secure browsing tool like Gaurdio comes in.
The DMs, and emails look like official messages from Instagram - same logo, branding, and colors, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. In these emails, you’re told that you’ve been locked out of your account, or they falsely accuse you of violating Instagram's copyright laws.
How secure are your online accounts?
Romantic traps, are as old as love itself. In the digital age, they’ve adapted and have taken the form of catfishing, or in other words, being deceived and emotionally manipulated by a fake online identity.
All they need is for you to buy them a plane ticket, wire them money, or buy them things online. They’ll milk you for whatever you’ve got, or until you pressure them into meeting, in which case, they’ll simply ghost you and stop replying to your messages.
Wanna make $1000 in less than an hour? Who doesn’t! All you need to do is to wire me $100, and I’ll make it happen. Sounds like a good investment, right? Wrong! Cash flipping and get-rich-fast scams aren’t a new concept, but Instagram adds a little realistic twist to the narrative. You’d be surprised at how easy it is.
After they set the stage, they’ll send out DMs pretending to run investment funds that can turn hundreds of dollars into thousands by trading stocks or foreign currency.
Scammers will pose as phony recruiters, directing applicants to fraudulent job applications that request sensitive personal information. You all know where this is going, right? Unfortunately, sharing your confidential details with these criminals can result in your Instagram profile being taken over, financial ruin, and in more extreme cases, identity theft.
How secure are your online accounts?
This is basically a type of phishing scam where cybercriminals open fake accounts and pose as known brands like Best Buy, Hollister, Nike, Victoria's Secret, etc. The accounts will then try to lure you in with fake posts promising free coupons, flights, and giveaways, but there's a catch.
In exchange for the rewards, you’re required to like, share, follow, and comment with your email address. Ding ding ding - red flag! This is the scammer's way of getting you to hand them your personal information, which can lead to identity theft. What about the free shoes or tickets you were promised? Unfortunately, you can forget about them.
Lottery scammers prey on our hopes for fortune and financial gain. They exploit the universal desire to win easy money, knowing that nearly everyone would be excited at the possibility of making cash. They may impersonate legitimate organizations (like a government agency) to claim that you're among the only winners of a lottery. Some even use stolen accounts or pages of people you know and impersonate them in order to reel you in.
All you’ll need to do is provide your personal information, like address and bank details to “verify your identity” Oh yeah, and they’ll also need a small processing fee in advance - before receiving your prize.
There's a special place in hell for donation scammers, as there’s nothing worse than preying on people trying to help others. To make themselves look legit, scammers use online accounts pretending to represent charities, orphanages, or religious figures and then hit you up for donations.
Thinking about buying a new car but are a few dollars short? Well, if you’re considering taking out a loan, Instagram is definitely not the right place to get it. With interest rates sky-high, the prospect of getting a loan for a reasonable rate does sound enticing, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this scam falls into the “too good to be true” category.
Scammers send out DMs and share posts offering instant loans at a low-interest rate, all you have to do is give them a small advance fee. Once you pay the fee, they’ll either ask for more money with the promise of providing you with a larger loan or simply ghost you. Advance fee - gone.
Once you pay them, they’ll stop responding, and you’ll either get subpar fake goods or not get anything at all.
General warning signs of things you should stay away from:
- Money requests
- You've won a contest or prize
- Quick ways to make money
- Job applications that come out of nowhere
- An attempt to move the conversation away from Instagram
- You receive a link to an unsafe website
- An investment opportunity
- Offers and discounts on popular items
- Gift card sales and giveaways
- Receive messages with spelling and grammar errors
- A brand without a verified account
- Personal information requests
Don’t give away information
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s totally worth mentioning. Whenever you receive a message that asks for personal information, be cautious, especially if the message asks you to provide your credit card number, bank account information, or private information.
Don’t press that link
Avoid using login links provided in DMs. Always use the official URL and directly log into your accounts. This is particularly important for Instagram phishing emails. Scammers rely on urgency to trick you into clicking the link without thinking critically. Take a moment to verify the real URL. If there is a genuine issue, a legitimate login will clarify it. You can also contact official support channels via email, chat, or phone to confirm.
If something seems too good to be true, it likely is. Giveaways, job offers, and similar scams aim to entice you and cloud your judgment. It's safer to assume these are rarely genuine. When in doubt, reach out to the brands directly through their official channels and find out if the offer’s legit.
Look for the verified badge
Always search for official accounts before responding to messages. Verified accounts (indicated by a blue checkmark) can help identify authentic brands and individuals. Established brands typically provide links to their official social media accounts on their website and vis versa. If you don’t see a link to their website on Instagram, it’s probably a fake profile impersonating a real brand.
Block unwanted followers
A lot of scams involve building a false sense of trust through a relationship. Consider blocking unknown followers or those without mutual connections. Setting your account to private and only allowing people you know to follow you will also give you an extra layer of security.
Enable two-factor authentication
Beware of suspicious messages
If someone you know sends you an out-of-the-blue, weird message, contact them directly. Call them, or try to meet up in person to verify if they actually sent the message. It's very possible that scammers are impersonating them and targeting you and others in their network.
Use browser and identity protection tools
From phishing scams to romance scams, fake giveaways, to investment opportunities, Instagram has become a popular hunting ground for scammers who exploit the platform's features and the trust of its users.
To stay safe, it's important to be watchful and aware of the red flags. Avoid sharing personal information, be cautious of suspicious messages, and always verify the legitimacy of accounts and offers. Enabling two-factor authentication and using browser and identity protection tools like Guardio can provide an additional layer of security.