To learn more about each of these Instagram scams and how to spot, report, and avoid them, continue reading this comprehensive guide.
12 types of Instagram scams
Since Instagram was founded in 2010, mobile scammers have come up with numerous ways to trick its users. From seemingly lucrative investment opportunities to fake job offers, there are many ways a scammer may appear in your direct messaging inbox. Here are a dozen known Instagram scams to avoid today.
1. Influencer scams
On Instagram, not all influencers are created equal. While there are plenty of legitimate influencers on the app, some of them are fake accounts designed to deceive you.
Characteristics of Instagram influencer scams include:
Accounts with a high number of fake followers and likes
Profiles with racy profile pictures
Promotion of investment opportunities or financial services
In some cases, it’s possible that the account was once real and has been hijacked by scammers on Instagram to fool others.
2. Phishing scams
In a phishing scam, you may receive a pressing direct message (DM) or email prompting you to take action before your Instagram account is “suspended.” In the message, a scammer will pose as an official Instagram customer service account and try to convince you that your account is in danger.
Common traits of a phishing scam include:
Warnings that your account is in danger
Requests to give up personal information including your username and password
Alerts that you need to verify “suspicious activity”
By engaging with an Instagram phishing message, it may allow them to take over your account, steal your data, or blackmail you for money. To avoid this, it’s important to never give up any information to an account you’re unsure about. And remember, Instagram will never DM you about your account, and you can view official Instagram emails in your Settings.
3. Fake job scams
With many people losing their jobs during the pandemic, scammers looked to take advantage of the situation by promoting fake job postings on Instagram.
Fake job scams often feature:
Messages from fake recruiters
Links to phony job applications
Requests for your personal information
Once you’ve given the so-called recruiter your information, they may use it to steal your identity, drain your financial accounts, or take over your Instagram profile.
4. Music promotion scams
If you share music on Instagram, you may be subject to music promotion scams. Compared to other scams, music promotion scams are much more specific and may only apply to musicians.
Characteristics of a music promotion scam include:
DMs from fake music promotion accounts
Requests for money in exchange for a promotional post
Claims that they can help increase your music streams
In some cases, these accounts will have a high number of followers, views, and likes. While it may seem like thousands of people are hearing your music, they are usually bot accounts, and the Instagram views will not translate into new listeners on streaming platforms.
5. Sponsorship scams
Sometimes referred to as Instagram ambassador scams, fake sponsorship scams also use fake or hacked accounts. Although, instead of posing as an influencer, these accounts pretend to be legitimate brands.
Traits of a sponsorship scam include:
DMs from fake brand accounts
Offers to pay you for advertisements
Requests for your personal information
Opportunities to sign up as an ambassador
In some schemes, you may even be promised a free or discounted trip, often for an in-person meeting or photoshoot. In reality, these situations are fake and used to steal your personal and financial information.
6. Lottery and giveaway scams
Another common scheme on Instagram are fake lottery and giveaway scams. These scams are designed specifically to steal your information and convince you that you've won a prize or contest.
Lottery and giveaway scams often include:
DMs congratulating you on your prize
Requests for your personal information to claim your winnings
Links redirecting you to unsafe websites
In some Instagram giveaway scams, scammers will hijack a real account or impersonate someone that is running a legitimate giveaway. Because of this, it's important to always be cautious and never share any personal information with someone you're unsure of.
7. Crypto scams
These days, it's almost impossible to browse the web without hearing about cryptocurrency. Unfortunately, scammers have taken advantage of crypto’s increasing popularity to scam Instagram users.
Similar to crypto Instagram scams, many scammers target those who may need some extra money with fake investment opportunities. Because of this, it’s best to be cautious of any cash flipping or get-rich-quick schemes.
Characteristics of Instagram investment scams include:
DMs from people appearing to live a lavish lifestyle
In most cases, these scams promote popular subscription services like Netflix, Spotify, and Xbox Live. To be safe, never sign up for a subscription service anywhere other than the service’s official website.
12. Blackmail scams
In some Instagram hacking scams, scammers may try to blackmail you as a form of harassment or for financial gain.
Traits of Instagram blackmailing scams often include:
Threats to release private information
Requests for payment
Claims that a hacker might have access to your files
When it comes to blackmailing scams, the hacker might not even have any of the information they claim they do, and instead are trying to scare you into meeting their demands.
How to spot a scammer on Instagram: 13 warning signs
Even though there are different types of social media scams, there are common red flags that many of them share. Keep an eye out for these Instagram scam warning signs:
They send messages with spelling and grammar mistakes
They claim to represent a company but are not a verified account
They ask for your personal information
If you come across any combination of these warning signs, don’t worry, because there are steps you can take to stop the scammer in their tracks. Continue reading to learn what to do if you run into a scam on Instagram.
What to do if you get scammed on Instagram
Now that you know exactly what to look for when identifying scams, you may be wondering what to do if someone scams you on Instagram. To keep you and your Instagram account safe, follow these steps:
Don’t respond or click any links: Whenever you receive Instagram scam messages, it's best to avoid responding or clicking any links.
Block the account: To block someone on Instagram, click on their profile, tap the three-dot icon at the top right of your screen, and select “Block.”
Report the account: To report the account, follow the same steps as above, but select “Report.” Once you’ve selected “Report,” follow the on-screen instructions to help inform Instagram of the specifics of the scam.
By following these steps, not only will you protect yourself, but you can also help Instagram stop these accounts from scamming anybody else.
How to avoid Instagram scams: 9 cybersecurity tips
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of how to report a scammer on Instagram, you might want to know how you can avoid them altogether. To reduce your chances of getting scammed, follow these nine cybersecurity tips:
Use common sense: If someone pitches you a deal that seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Always be cautious and use common sense when interacting with others on Instagram.
Look for the verification check mark: If an account reaches out to you claiming to be an influencer or brand account, look for the blue verification check mark by their name. If they don’t have that, they are likely a scam account.
Avoid linking your Instagram to third-party apps: In some cases, third-party apps may ask for access to
your Instagram account. Before saying yes, be sure to do your own research and see if the app is legitimate, as some apps could be harvesting and selling your data.
Make your account private: Keeping your Instagram account private will only allow users you approve to view your account. You can do this by tapping “Settings,” selecting “Privacy,” and then turning on the Private Account feature.
Use strong passwords: To keep your Instagram account as safe as possible, it’s important to create a strong password. This can help prevent Instagram frauds from taking over your account using password spraying or other tactics.
Never click on suspicious links: In many cases, Instagram scammers may try to lead you to a malicious website. To avoid this, never click on any links you’re unsure of.
Only shop from verified accounts: Since Instagram added its shopping feature, many businesses have begun advertising and selling products online. Unfortunately, scammers are pretending to do the same. To be safe, only buy from accounts that are verified with a blue check mark.
Use an antivirus app: For an extra layer of protection, you can install an antivirus app on your mobile device. This can help protect your phone from mobile threats, including viruses, malware, and spyware.
Clare Stouffer, a Gen employee, is a writer and editor for the company’s blogs. She covers various topics in cybersecurity.
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