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Watch Out for These Instagram Scams

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in SecurityJanuary 21, 2021

Scams are nothing new, but the sheer volume of online scams now is staggering. Instagram has about 1 billion users providing scammers with an endless supply of potential victims. People looking for good deals online are finding that more often than not, their “great find” on Instagram is nothing more than a sad scam.

instagram scams

Why Instagram?

Instagram has quickly moved up the ranks to become one of the most popular social media platforms around. Cybercriminals have taken notice and are using the service to advertise and sell wares that are not even close to what is advertised. Many of these are companies out of China, and when the buyer tries to arrange a refund or return, they are met with endless, nonsensical emails claiming that the return shipping cost would be too much and instead, “here is a discount for your next purchase.” Most frustrated buyers finally give up.

If you read Instagram’s policies, it’s not completely clear how much of a violation of their selling parameters a scammer must cross before taking action against them.

A large portion of Instagram buyers is young people (Millennials) always on the hunt for great products at a great price. Scammers take advantage of this and use professional photos and creative descriptions to entice victims into buying items that end up being nothing like the photo or just plain junk. Sometimes scammers impersonate popular brands to trick victims into thinking they are getting cheap, legitimate goods.

Unlike organized hacker groups, Instagram scammers are often just out to dupe you into buying something cheap for more money than it’s worth. Some may also look to get personal information for identity theft, but the objective is mainly for profit. 

Instagram Money Scams to Watch Out For

One thing is for sure; scammers are resourceful. Unique scams are popping up all the time with similar goals but varying tactics. Some of the most common Instagram scams to watch out for right now are:

Phishing Attacks

As with any phishing attack, the goal is to get you to hand over personal information or details that a scammer can use to steal your money. These may be ads that urge you to click, so you don’t miss out. They may also be in the form of job ads, romance connections, or prizes you have “won.” Be extra careful when you see Instagram ads for cheap or easy loans, investments promising huge returns, and paid subscriptions of any type.

Fake Influencers

Influencers are people on Instagram who have huge followings. Big-name brands often sponsor them to talk about products they like in an effort to get you to buy them too. Watch out for fake influencers or someone who contacts you from a brand wanting to “sponsor” you. If they ask for lots of personal information quickly or it sounds fishy or too good to be true, walk away.

Fake Brands

Many scammers pretend to be famous brands posting pictures of trendy items from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Nike, and even Apple to get victims to click. Check out the URL you end up at. If it doesn’t show the actual brand’s URL, close the page immediately and do not purchase anything. It’s a scam!

Free Stuff

Instagram money scams

Another popular scam on Instagram works by offering victims free items or cash for taking surveys. If you come across an ad on Instagram that offers something for free, remember the old adage, “nothing is for free.” There is always a catch. 

What to Do If You Were Scammed?

The threat of identity theft is real. If you have been scammed, remember not only is your identity at stake, but potentially your bank accounts, your credit, and your life may be affected in various ways. If you have fallen victim to an Instagram scam, follow these steps:

  1. Try to remember every piece of information you provided to the scammer. This will help direct your next steps.

  2. Alert your bank and have them put a stop on any transactions from the scammer.

  3. Review your bank account statements monthly to check for any unusual activity.

  4. Change all your passwords, not only for your Instagram account but for anything else you think could be affected, especially if you provided information to the scammer or clicked any links. Your device or computer may also be infected with malware.

  5. Install and run a deep scan of your antivirus software looking for spyware or malware.

  6. Put a credit freeze on your account with all three of the big credit bureaus. 

  7. Contact Instagram and report the scam. Provide them with as much information as you can.

  8. Sign up for identity theft monitoring with a company you can trust.

  9. Never reuse passwords on multiple websites. If you clicked a link and entered a login, that username/password combo is compromised. If you used the same combo on another account, the scammer could do even more damage. 

When browsing ads on Instagram, be careful, and use common sense. Only purchase from trusted brands and always check the URL before paying. 

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