Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms across the world. However, the popularity of the platform makes it an ideal target for scams.
Quoting a BBC report, cybersecurity solutions firm Sophos said in January 2021, Instagram fraud has increased by 50% since the coronavirus outbreak began.
With no escaping the digital life, Sophos warns social media users of online scams saying that it is crucial to identify an Instagram scam and know what to do if you’ve been targeted.
Here are the most common Instagram scams, according to Sophos.
Phishers try to access your Instagram account by sending you a suspicious link, either as an Instagram direct message or via email. You are then tricked into inputting your username and password on a fake login page.
Once the crooks have your login details, they can access your personal information and even change your password to lock you out of your account.
Permanently delete message requests of this sort without opening them or clicking on any links.
Fake influencer sponsors
As scammers take advantage of influencers on social media to exploit them, they pretend to be an established brand and offer influencers an advertising deal. If the influencer is naive enough to believe that the deal they are receiving is legitimate, they may hand over their banking details to be “paid” by the brand.
Some adversaries go to great lengths over long periods to trick their victims. An example is the romance scams, where fraudsters enter into a fake online relationship, often speaking with their targets for weeks, months, or even years to earn and abuse their trust. Once the prey is trapped, the scammer starts asking for money for all sorts of things.
The scammer will continue asking for money for as long as the person at the other end continues to send it.
Avoid sending money over to someone you have never met face-to-face, even (perhaps especially) if the reason for sending the money is to be able to meet them face-to-face for the first time.
Instagram influencers often hold sponsored giveaways featuring limited-time promotions in which brands offer free products or services to a few lucky winners. Unfortunately, scammers will impersonate the trusted influencer and inform you that you have won the giveaway. But to receive the prize, you need to pay a “shipping fee” or provide personal information that they can then use for illegitimate purposes.
With these scams, cybercriminals send you a direct message offering a loan with a great interest rate. All you need to do to secure this fantastic offer is pay a deposit. As soon as you’ve transferred the funds, the loan offer, the scammer, and your money all vanish.
Fake investment scams
These scams encourage you to invest in a dodgy “get rich quick” or “cash flipping” scam. Again, when you hand over your money, the scammer disappears, and so do your funds.
At the start, you may receive emails or be given a website login with realistic-looking but fake data that pretends your investments are performing well. Some victims, therefore, continue investing more and more money and even convince their friends and family to join in – until the scammers disappear with the lot.
Scammers use the lure of what sounds like a fantastic job to trick you into sharing personal information, possibly details such as a home address, phone number, social security number, passport and immigration information, and scans of ID documents such as your driving license.
The crooks aren’t asking for your data to vet you for a job – they’re after your information so they can commit identity theft, where they use your details to apply for loans, credit cards, and more in your name.
Credit card fraud
Credit card fraud often begins with an innocent-looking social media post offering “quick cash,” such as a contest that provides a vast reward.
Click on the embedded link, and you’ll be asked for your credit card information or your online banking credentials. Once the scammers have managed to steal enough of your financial information, they will use your card details to make online purchases.
Given these scams, Sophos, a global leader in next-generation cybersecurity, provides a tip for staying safe on Instagram:
- Pick hard-to-guess passwords. Don’t use the same password on all your accounts. If you think you may have used your password on a fake site, change it as soon as you can. Consider using a password manager if you don’t have one already.
- Don’t overshare. As much as it seems commonplace to share most of what happens in your life on Instagram nowadays, you don’t have to give away everything about yourself. Check if there’s something revealing in your photos’ background, such as contact details, addresses, or passwords on sticky notes.
- Stay vigilant. If an account or message seems suspicious to you, do not open or reply. Do not click on any links. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is.
- Consider setting your account to private. If you use Instagram more to keep current with your close friends, make your account private. Only your real friends will be able to see your photos and videos. Regularly audit your list of followers.