Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has seen more than 1 billion accounts opened, and users on the service share close to 100 million photos every day.
Unfortunately, the popularity of the platform makes it an ideal place for cybercriminals to operate large-scale scams.
This scamming 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.
As our digital lives continue to grow, and online scammers learn new tricks, it is important to know how to identify an Instagram scam, and what to do if you are targeted.
Here are some of the most common scams to watch out for:
1. Phishing scams
Phishers try to get access to your Instagram account by sending you a suspicious link, either as an Instagram direct message or via email, where you are then tricked into putting in 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 own account.
2. 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.
3. 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 you that you have won the giveaway but in order to receive the prize you need to pay a “shipping fee” or provide personal information that they can then use for illegitimate purposes.
4. Loan scams
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. Of course, as soon as you’ve transferred the funds, the loan offer, the scammer and your money all vanish.
What to do – Here are our top four tips for staying safe on Instagram:
- Pick strong passwords. Don’t use the same password as you do on any other sites. If you think you may have given away your password on a fake site, change it as soon as you can before the crooks do. Consider using a password manager if you don’t have one already.
- Don’t overshare. As much as it seems to be common to share a lot of your life on Instagram nowadays, you don’t have to give away everything about yourself. Also think about who or what is in the background of your photos before you upload them.
- Stay vigilant. If an account or message seems suspicious to you, do not interact or reply to the account and do not click on any links they send you. If something seems too good to be true, assume that it IS too good to be true.
- Consider setting your account to private. If you aren’t trying to be an influencer whom everyone can see, and if you use Instagram more as a messaging platform to keep touch with your close friends than as a way to tell the world about yourself, you may want to make your account private. Only your followers will be able to see your photos and videos. Review your list of followers regularly and kick off people you don’t recognise or don’t want following you anymore.
If you would like help and advice on this, or anything other aspect of security, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org | T: +44 (0) 2074 999 323