If an account comes into your DMs and says you’ve won a contest or you should check out a way to make quick money, or offers some kind of promotional collaboration, then it’s probably too good to be true. (You should delete the messages and report the scam.)
“When it comes to spotting a scam on Instagram, people should be on the lookout for messages asking you to click a link, even if they appear to be from a friend, a trusted brand, or Instagram itself,” adds Barker. Scam messages often include typos, bad English, or asking you to click on a link that takes you away from the app. They often come from recently created accounts.
Scammers have been spotted using the Instagram logo and branding to send tech, verification or security support messages to people via DM. These are all fake. Instagram says it will never send you direct messages about your account. (You can see official emails from Instagram in the app’s settings.) “Be on the lookout for posts about giveaways, gift cards and investment schemes, as these are common tactics for criminals,” says Barker. If a brand contacts you from an unverified account, you should be very careful with your response.
Scams also come through Instagram Stories. “Fraudsters are abusing the Instagram Stories feature, posting scams that are automatically deleted after 24 hours,” said Chris Boyd, lead malware intelligence analyst at cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes. “The scam is hidden behind their profile picture; you won’t see it in the main collection of images,” says Boyd, adding that the move helps keep the scam out of Instagram feeds and automatically disappear, making it harder to detect.
While competitor scams and attempts to gain access to people’s accounts are nothing new, Instagram has also seen a rise in hostage-style scams, where people are forced to post videos telling people to invest in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies in order to get their hacked accounts back . . More Instagram users, he says JOKE, were pressured to make videos after their accounts were hacked. Other people report losing thousands to Instagram scammers. The incidents highlight why you shouldn’t trust every account you follow.
“Cryptocurrency scams are a quick way to lure users away from the relative safety of the Instagram platform and onto commercial sites where Instagram can’t help,” says Boyd. “Extortion-based cryptocurrency scams are a smart move by scammers. Using people you know and trust in visual media to promote something will always be more convincing than a random email.”
How to avoid fraud
There are things you can do to avoid hacking and the worst scams – it’s a mix of security settings and small behavioral changes. Fortunately, the process isn’t too complicated, and small changes can make a big difference.
First, as mentioned earlier, you should avoid clicking on links sent to you, especially from accounts you don’t know personally, or if someone you know sends a URL that seems arbitrary. “Following an account over many months still may not make it an authentic account,” says Moore.