Instagram undoubtedly is one of the most popular social media platforms at present. Using the platform has become a routine for billions of users as a means to communicate and engage with friends and family. Apart from being a channel to keep in touch with people, several businesses and influencers are dependent on the platform for monetisation purposes.
However, apart from all the benefits, the platform also has a negative side to it. There are several cyber criminals on the platform who take advantage of gullible young youth. Scamming on Instagram has worsened over the past year, with the BBC claiming in January 2021 that Instagram fraud reports have increased by 50% since the coronavirus outbreak began in 2020. Researchers from Sophos have put together some common scams that take place on Instagram, and have also shared tips on avoiding them.
Eight most common scams to watch out for on Instagram
Phishing scams: Phishers try to get access to Instagram account by sending a suspicious link, either as an Instagram direct message or via email, where users are then tricked into putting in their username and password on a fake login page. Once the crooks have login details, they can access personal information and even change password to lock users out of their own account. Users must Always delete message requests of this sort without opening them or clicking on any links or buttons.
Fake influencer sponsors: Scammers are taking advantage of the rise in influencers on social media to exploit the influencers themselves. These scammers pretend to be an established brand and offer influencers an advertising deal. If the influencer is unlucky enough to believe that the deal they are receiving is legitimate, they may hand over their personal banking details in order to be “paid” by the brand.
Romance scams: Not all Instagram scams are quick and simple. Some adversaries go to great lengths over long periods of time to trick their victims. Romance scams are where fraudsters enter into a fake online relationships, often speaking with their targets for weeks, months or even years to earn and then to abuse their trust. Once the target is ensnared, the scammer starts asking for money for visas, flights, travel expenses and more. But there’s always an excuse why the scammer wasn’t able to get the visa, or board the flight, or do whatever they said they would. (Sudden travel restrictions due to COVID-19 regulations have apparently become a popular excuse during the coronavirus pandemic.) The scammer will continue asking for money for as long as the person at the other end continues to send it.
Users must avoid sending money over to someonethey have never met face-to-face, even (perhaps especially) if the reason for sending the money is allegedly to meet them face to-face for the first time.
Giveaway scams: Instagram influencers often hold sponsored giveaways featuring limited-time promotions in which brands offer free products or services to a few lucky winners. These giveaways are often extravagant, giving followers the opportunity to win designer clothes, expensive laptops, airpods, and so on. Unfortunately, scammers will impersonate the trusted influencer and inform that they have won the giveaway but in order to receive the prize they need to pay a “shipping fee” or provide personal information that they can then use for illegitimate purposes.
Loan scams: With these scams cybercriminals send a direct message offering a loan with a great interest rate. All they need to do to secure this fantastic offer is pay a deposit. Of course, as soon as the funds are transferred, the loan offer, the scammer and money all vanish.
Fake investment scams: These scams encourage one to invest in a dodgy “get rich quick” or “cash flipping” scam. Again, when the money is handed over the scammer disappears, and so do the funds. Scammers often pose with expensive cars and designer clothes, claiming they’re “self-made” and became “rich” at a young age, in order to convince their victims to invest their money.
Job scams: Scammers use the lure of what sounds like an amazing job in order to trick users into sharing personal information, possibly details such as home address, phone number, social security number, passport and immigration information and scans of ID documents such as driving licenses. The crooks are usually after information so they can commit what’s known as identity theft, where they use details to apply for loans, credit cards and more in the victim’s name.
Credit card fraud: This fraud often begins with an innocent looking social media post offering “quick cash”, such as a contest that offers a huge reward. Clicking on the embedded link will lead to the users being asked for credit card information or online banking credentials. Once the scammers have managed to steal enough of financial information, they will use card details to make online purchases.
How to Avoid Instagram Scams According to Sophos Naked Security
Here are the top four tips for staying safe on Instagram:
Proper passwords: Using the same password for every site should be avoided.
Oversharing should be avoided: Users need not share everything about themselves online, and should also be vary of who is in the background of photos and videos being shared by them.
Stay vigilant: If an account or message seems suspicious, interacting or replying to the account should b avoided. If something seems too good to be true, assume that it IS too good to be true.
Consider setting the account to private: Only followers will be able to see photos and videos. Users must review their list of followers regularly and delete people they don’t recognise or don’t want as followers.