How to Easily Spot and Avoid Instagram Scams

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With over 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram is now the most popular photo and text sharing platform in the world. 100 million users login every day to share everyday activities and moments. Unfortunately, this popularrity has also made Instagram become a regular hunting ground for ruthless attackers. According to the BBC, Instagram fraud reports hae increased by almost 150% since the pandemic began. And if you don’t have your guard up, you might unwittingly become the next victim of the numerous scams that proliferate on the platform.

Read on to learn about some of the most common scams on Instagram so that you can protect yourself, your money and your identity.

Counterfeit products

According to a study by analytics company Ghost Data, fake brand accounts selling counterfeit goods have almost tripled on Instagram over the last three years and account for 65 million posts a month. The most commonly faked products are bags, shoes and clothes by high-end retailers such as Apple, Gucci, Nike and Louis Vuitton. These fake accounts boost their popularity with fake likes and followers and make consistent posts that help to make them look like the real deal. Ghost Data estimates that as much as 20% of all posts covering fashion promote fake products and more than 50,000 accounts are hawking counterfeit products every day.

To avoid getting scammed, check the account you want to buy from carefully. Is the account verified? The big brands should have a blue verification badge on their account. Click the link on the account to find out at what the URL links to. Most importantly, use common sense and consider whether it makes sense for a traditionally expensive product to be offered at such a low price. If they have odd payment methods, that should be another major red flag.

Fake Investment schemes

One of the most prolific scams on Instagram are the fake investment schemes that are has ensnared many young people. The scam targets followers of financial institutions on the platform. According to an Action Fraud report, hundreds of young people aged between 20 and 30 are increasingly falling for these cheap “get rich quick” schemes which has cost 164 victims £358,809 in the UK alone. The scam often begins with a direct message that lures the unsuspecting user to an awesome looking Instagram page featuring a man surrounding himself with exotic cars and private jets.

The criminals convince their victims to hand over money with the promise that they will multiply their value by trading on the stock market or by buying and trading foreign currency. The scam promises a massive return on a £600 investment within 24 hours. The feed of the page contains genuine-looking proof in the form of images, testimonials, reviews and videos. But shortly after, the scammer gives the victim excuses as to why they cannot return their money and profits unless more money is sent. Eventually, the victim is blocked from contacting the scammer.

You can avoid falling for this scam by not responding to direct messages that include requests for money from strangers. Before you sign up to any investment-related offers, always verify the identity of the supposed financial company with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

DM Phishing Scams

There are several variations of this scam. For example, you might get a direct message supposedly from Instagram claiming that your account has been hacked or that you’ve been approved for a verification badge. In other cases, you might get a message that your photos have been featured on a porn site, or a message warning that you’ve infringed upon an image’s copyright and will need to fill out a form to avoid having your account suspended.

Whatever the case may be, the aim of these types of messages is to get hold of your login credentials. These messages will usually include a malicious hyperlink. If you click on the link, you’ll be taken to a fake Instagram login page where you’ll be prompted to login with your email address and password.

Here’s what can happen if you do login to that page:

  • You’ve provided your login details to a fraudster.
  • You will usually be locked out of your account.
  • Your identity is likely to be stolen.
  • The scammer will attempt to login to all of your online accounts.
  • Malware will likely be sent out to your followers, friends and contacts. 

Use common sense when dealing with any message you receive. Avoid clicking on links that are included in any of these type of messages. You may also want to enable two-factor authentication to protect your account.

Fake giveaways

Giveaways are generally used as a legitimate marketing tactic, but some are scams with non-existent prizes. The main aim of these fraudulent giveaways is to gather as much personal information as possible. The best way to identify a fraudulent giveaway is by looking at the account sponsoring the promotion. If the account has an official company name plus “giveaway” as it’s username, it’s probably fake. When real companies have a giveaway, they don’t create a separate account or the giveaway. They do it through their official account.

Useless courses

This scam consists of rip-off courses and workshops promoted by so-called experts. Aspiring bloggers and influencers are often caught out by this scam. Before you spend big money on courses, it is important to vet them carefully. Ask for unequivocal money-back guarantees and testimonials from previous students.

Have you been targeted by fraudsters on Instagram? Please share your story in the comments.

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