Social media have become an inherent part of our lives, connecting us with friends, family, and even strangers from around the world. Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms as it changed the way we share our lives - starting with picture-sharing, and now broadened to videos and reels.
There is, however, a lurking danger and threat among the cute dog pictures and food videos. Hackers and cybercriminals have found several ways to exploit the social media platform to steal sensitive information.
We’ll look further into the instagram scams that pose a threat on the app, looking at the different forms and shapes it can take. We’ll furthermore offer some tips and tricks to stay safe in the digital world of Instagram.
The Rise of Instagram Scams
Instagram laid the foundation of sharing bits and pieces of our lives exclusively through pictures (and now videos). Anyone can create an account as long as they have an email - this makes it easy to connect with people.
There is, however, a flipside of the app and the easy way of making accounts. Anyone can pose as whoever they want - you can e.g. create fan accounts for your favorite musician, you can make an account for your cat, but you can also create an account imitating another person and do angler phishing.
The fact that you can make an account posing as anyone, makes the cyberthreat even bigger. Scammers use this feature to exploit the platform’s wide reach, and to trick people into entering giveaways and competitions where they have to give up sensitive information in order to get their “prize”.
Common Instagram Scams
We’ve briefly mentioned the common types of Instagram scams, so we’ll delve a bit deeper into the different types of scams below:
One of the most common types of scams on Instagram is hackers creating fake celebrity accounts. Here, they’ll convince fans that they are the real celebrity where they often promise direct interactions and exclusive content to their fans. Scammers exploit the trust between the celebrity and their fans, which in the end can give the scammers a great financial gain.
Another type of Instagram scam that many users fall victim of, is fake giveaways. Here, scammers make convincing giveaway posts, claiming to offer different prizes including high-end products or gift cards. If users want to participate they usually have to follow several accounts, share and like the post and tag friends in the comments. However, these posts are nothing but a chance for scammers to boost their follower count and increase the number of potential victims of identity theft and information stealing.
The last but also very popular scamming method is fake online stores. Instagram has gotten a fairly new feature where stores and vendors can link their store and products to a post. One of the dangerous things about this is, that you cannot check the link on the post properly, as you click the product, after which you’re directed to a website. Scammers can thus insert malicious websites into these links and thus infiltrate and infect your device. Furthermore, you can purchase the product believing it’s genuine - however, it’s a scammer who “sells” the product, so you’re charged for the fake product and most likely cannot get a refund.
Instagram scams: What to do
Instagram is continuously improving its security measures to try and prevent these types of scams, but they cannot fix everything. That is why it’s important to take some proactive measures yourself:
Verify the account: Before you engage with any account - celebrity or a brand - you should verify their authenticity. You can either ask them for proof, or look for the blue verification tick most brands and publicly known people have. This badge indicates that they are genuine and not imposters.
Be careful with giveaways: You should always be extra careful with giveaways. Some of them also seem too good to be true, so use your common sense and have a skeptical attitude with these. You can look further into the account hosting the giveaway and see if they seem genuine or if they e.g. have hosted many giveaways before.
Do safe shopping: If you choose to do some shopping on Instagram you should only buy from reputable brands and websites. Use secure payment methods and avoid clicking on links from unknown sources.
Use MFA: You can improve your account security by using MFA for your account. This ensures that even if scammers get a hold of your password, they cannot access or enter your account without the additional authentication.
Report suspicious activity: Many social media platforms have easy reporting functions, and Instagram is no exception. If you stumble upon a suspicious account or post, you can report this to Instagram. If you see a scam and report it, you can help many users from clicking and falling for the Instagram scam.
Stay educated and updated
When it comes to Instagram scams, knowledge is truly power. When you know of the latest trends in cybersecurity as well as cyberthreats, you can stay one step ahead of the scammers. Some of the things you can do to stay educated is to:
- Understand the scamming tactics. Once you know these, you can adapt your activity online to avoid these.
- Know the red flags. Scammers often use the same methods to lure people in, so once you can spot these red flags (like the too-good-to-be-true prizes and interactions), you can circumvent the scammer.
- Stay updated with cybersecurity blogs and forums. There are many cybersecurity blogs out there, including ours. They will keep you updated on the latest trends and things to keep a watchful eye on in the cyber landscape.
- Look for any official announcements from the SoMe platforms. SoMe platforms release updates on a regular basis - here they’ll update you on any recent scams and patch any security vulnerabilities.
- Stay aware together. If the majority of the Instagram community is vigilant of the scams on the platform, everyone can help fight scammers and their malicious acts.
- Spread the knowledge to help others learn about the Instagram scams and the threat they pose.
- Continue to learn as the threat landscape changes. There will alway come new ways for scammers to trick people, so if you know of them, you can avoid becoming a victim.
Stay safe on Instagram
Social media gives us a great opportunity to connect with people and stay connected - Instagram is no exception. It’s easy to post and interact with people on Instagram, as well as creating accounts to do so. This ease of use has unfortunately also been misused by scammers who have seen an opportunity to exploit the app.
Instagram scams take many shapes and forms, like celebrity impersonations, giveaways and online shopping. We thus need to be extra careful when we use the app, so we don’t fall into the trap of the Instagram scam.
By staying informed on the latest scams and sharing your knowledge of these, you help not only yourself but the people around you. Knowledge is power, so you should use it carefully and stay safe online.
You can also look at our 5 tips to staying safe online, to improve your online activity. When you know you’re safe, you can relax and enjoy the endless stream of pictures and videos that Instagram offers.
Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.View all posts by Caroline Preisler