We are living in a visual age where we are constantly bombarded with people sharing their life experiences on social media in the form of pictures or videos. This has opened up ways of expressing creativity that were simply not possible before. Instagram is one of these popular social media platforms, with billions of active users yearly. People can share images and reels of their actions, inviting engagement from their followers. This has also attracted the attention of malicious elements from the Internet, as Instagram scams are on the rise. This article covers Instagram scams, why they happen, and what can be done to protect against them.
Why do Scammers Choose Instagram
Instagram defines itself as “.. a free photo and video sharing app available on iPhone and Android. People can upload photos or videos to our service and share them with their followers or with a select group of friends.” There are several reasons why it has become a popular platform for such scams:
- It is primarily visual, with scammers exploiting this feature to engage and post clickbaity pictures that entice users. They also try to abuse the Instgram algorithm by encouraging users to like, comment and share the malicious posts, thus further increasing the reach of the scam.
- Instagram influencers such as celebrities, models, and public figures can have millions of followers. Scammers can exploit this by impersonating these figures and abusing the trust present in the platform.
- The transient nature of Instagram Stories and Highlights allows scammers to create malicious content that goes away after a time, allowing them to cover their tracks and stay undetected.
- Scammers can use hashtags on Instagram to take advantage of popular trends and further increase the reach of their malicious posts.
Types of Instagram Scams
Instagram scams come in a variety of types, but the underlying pattern is that of social engineering. Scammers exploit how the platform works and trick users via the trust they place in it. By manipulating users on Instagram, scammers can trick them out of vast amounts of money and in handing over their personal information. It is essential to stay aware of these scams to be protected:
- Phishing Scams: Scammers exploit Instagram’s direct messaging feature and present themselves as official support. They inform the user that their account has some problems and that entering their credentials on a link will resolve them. These phishing scams exploit the trust of direct messages within the platform.
- Fake prizes and giveaways: Scammers take advantage of users’ wishes to win free prizes and money. By impersonating influencers, celebrities, and other public brands, they promise giveaways in return for users providing personal information or making a purchase.
- Relationship Scams: Fake profiles of attractive-looking persons are created, reaching out to vulnerable users. Scammers exploit the personal nature of Instagram to trick gullible people into relationships over Instagram which are then exploited via requests for money.
- Impersonation Scams: As mentioned earlier, scammers impersonate profiles of famous influencers and celebrities. After building up an influence, they can ask for financial contributions in return for shoutouts or exclusive content.
- Financial Fraud: Scammers can impersonate popular financial brands and share Instagram posts and images that promise huge returns for fake financial investments.
These are just a few of the most popular Instagram scams, with the typical pattern being how scammers exploit users’ desire for relationships and influence. By emotionally manipulating users or promising prizes that seem too good to be true, scammers can socially engineer them into handing over their financial and personal information.
How to Prevent Instagram Scams
It is essential to be aware of the tell-tale signs that indicate an Instagram scam, such as the following:
- Sense of urgency in the messages where users are pressured into clicking on links within a specific timeframe
- The disparity between followers to the following ratio. Fake scams that impersonate other influencers typically have a skewed ratio, with them following vast amounts of users but having few followers.
- Requests for personal and financial information. Another giveaway is requests for your personal information, as no legitimate brand will ask for such details over Instagram messaging.
- Generic content that is posted repeatedly. Scammers typically repeat the same content over and over again to gain followers.
Along with awareness of such scams, there are other good practices that users can follow:
- Enable two-factor authentication on your Instagram accounts to improve its security posture and make it harder for account takeovers to happen.
- Verify influencer accounts on Instagram. Do some basic research to find out the official accounts of influencers and celebrities before interacting with them.
- Report suspicious accounts and activity to Instagram so malicious accounts and posts can be removed proactively and not spread.
Instagram will continue to be a popular platform for sharing images and videos and all its users should be aware of these scams. By following the tips outlined in this article, users can enjoy all the features of Instagram in a safe and secure environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do scammers choose Instagram?
Scammers exploit Instagram’s visual nature, the transient nature of Stories and Highlights, and the use of hashtags. They may impersonate influencers and celebrities to mislead followers and abuse the trust within the platform.
What are the common types of Instagram scams?
Common Instagram scams include phishing, fake prizes, giveaways, relationship scams, impersonation scams, financial fraud, and investment scams. These scams all involve social engineering, where the scammers manipulate users and trick them into handing over money or personal information.
How do I protect myself from Instagram scams?
Be cautious of urgent messages, follower-to-following ratio disparity, requests for personal or financial information, and repetitively posted generic content. Use two-factor authentication, verify influencer accounts, and report suspicious accounts or activities to Instagram.
What actions should I take if I encounter a suspicious account or activity?
If you encounter a suspicious account or activity on Instagram, report it immediately to Instagram for investigation and possible removal to prevent the spread of scams.