The 10 Biggest Instagram Scams Happening Right Now

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Gaetano DiNardi

Contributor at Aura

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    Fake Giveaways, Imposter Scams, and More

    Instagram as a social media platform has over a billion active users — and scams happen on the app with disturbing tenacity. Scammers on Instagram are constantly thinking of new ways to mislead you and steal your money.

    But are these Instagram scammers sophisticated cybercriminals with elaborate hacking prowess? Not really.

    These social media con artists are often financially strapped people with little computer hacking skills. However, they are masters of deception and illusion.

    Even tech savvy users can be duped — like this 27 year-old financial planner who recently got scammed out of $3,000 on a bogus forex investment scam [*].

    Instagram scammers love to hide behind fake accounts and run their schemes using these timeless scam techniques:

    • Send you a pitch that’s “too good to be true”. 
    • Post videos and pictures of cash. 
    • Post screenshots of financial charts.
    • Reply very fast to DMs with high-pressure tactics.
    • Ask you to click on suspicious links.
    • Ask you to share personal data or financial information.
    • Ask you to send crypto to a specific wallet address. 
    • Ask you for deposits on PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, etc. 
    Take action: If you’ve been the victim of an Instagram scam, your bank account, email, and other online accounts could be at risk. Try Aura’s identity theft protection free for 14 days to secure your identity against scammers.

    The 10 Most Common Instagram Scams

    1. Phishing scams
    2. Fake merchandise scams
    3. Fake influencer accounts
    4. Sponsorship scams
    5. Lottery, sweepstakes, or giveaway scams
    6. Money flipping scams
    7. Crypto mining scams
    8. Fake job scams
    9. Romance scams
    10. Music promotion scams

    1. Phishing scams

    Phishing is the most common scam on Instagram. You could receive a scam email, or a fake direct message (DM) from a bogus profile that attempts to hijack your Instagram account.

    These hackers use cloned login pages that are usually up to the brim with spelling errors and other design discrepancies. But if they catch you off-guard, or in a careless moment — you might fall for it.

    The scam in a nutshell:

    • In this type of scam, you will typically get an “urgent” direct message persuading you to take immediate action to verify your account before it gets “suspended.”
    • Sometimes they’ll say your account has been compromised. Or, they might ask you to verify said “suspicious activity”.
    • Their main goal is to direct users to click on a link in order to remedy the situation.
    • Of course, that link redirects users to a look-alike login page that mimics the real Instagram login page.
    • People unknowingly enter their username and password, arming the fraudsters with everything they need for an account takeover.

    With your stolen your login details, scammers can:

    • Change your password and lock you out of your account.
    • Steal personal data like your phone number.
    • Get access to other connected, third-party apps.
    • Post scam advertisements on your profile page.
    • Impersonate you and propagate malware links to your friends and family.
    • Impersonate you and send messages to your followers asking for money.
    • Extort you to reclaim your account.
    scam instagram account example
    Example of a scam Instagram account.

    2. Fake merchandise scams

    Selling counterfeit goods is a large-scale scam on Instagram, and it’s widespread across user accounts and Instagram advertising.

    According to research [*]:

    • There are over 20,000 active counterfeiters' accounts on Instagram.
    • Each counterfeiter profile counts an average of over 1,250 friends.
    • 75% counterfeiters prefer to communicate over WhatsApp.

    The scam in a nutshell:

    • Counterfeiters pose as real brand accounts and promise exclusive deals and discounts on luxury items.
    • The more followers they have, the more legitimate they appear. Often, these followers are fake.
    • The scam accounts will post enhanced pictures of products using photoshop to make the products look enticing on advertisements. They also tend to include some text directly into their images over static information via posts or stories.
    • Shoppers can “place orders” online, but will never receive the items. Others receive low-quality goods or complete knock-offs.

    The good news: Instagram can shut down fraudulent accounts (if you report them). You can also file a credit card fraud claim with your financial institution if you’ve been scammed.

    The bad news: There’s nothing Instagram can do to prevent scammers from creating new scam accounts and running similar online shopping scams.

    The worst part: If you fall for one of these fake merchandise scams, you may not be able to recover lost funds. However, you can submit a claim under Instagram’s purchase protection policy.

    📚 Related: Online Shopping Safety Tips

    3. Fake influencer accounts

    Have you ever received a DM from one of those mysterious Instagram accounts promoting financial services? The account might even represent an attractive woman, posing as an investment expert.

    The scam in a nutshell:

    • You will receive a follow, and possibly a DM from a “popular” account, loaded with fake followers and fake likes. (It might even be a hacked Instagram account.)
    • The account is likely to have the appearance of an attractive woman, promoting financial services or investment opportunities.
    • The account’s content is a far cry from finance.
    • Preying on your emotional weakness, the account will tell you about incredible “investment opportunities” in cryptocurrency, forex, or real estate.

    📚 Related: How To Protect Your Privacy Online

    4. Sponsorship scams

    Social media influencers use Instagram to promote products or services in exchange for a commission fee. However, not sponsorships are legitimate.

    The scam in a nutshell:

    • Con artists pose as real brand accounts and promise exclusive sponsorship deals.
    • If you have a decent number of followers, scammers will pretend to represent a big brand and offer you an advertising deal to “work” together.
    • They’ll promise to fly you somewhere exciting, host you in a luxury hotel, and even provide you with a fictitious itinerary.
    • Before your “partnership” begins, they’ll ask you to cover up-front costs like travel expenses to meet their team.
    • The scammers will promise to reimburse you for these expenses after you feature their product on your Instagram posts.
    • They might even dangle a “sign-on bonus.” And of course, they’ll need your banking details.

    📚 Related: The 12 Latest Social Engineering Attacks to Avoid

    5. Lottery, sweepstakes, or giveaway scams

    Plenty of well-known brands host genuine giveaways on their Instagram accounts. But in this scam, there’s a catch. You’ll be asked to provide your banking details in order to “claim your prize.” The classic version of this is the Publishers Clearing House scam.

    The scam in a nutshell:

    • A copycat account with fake followers will dupe people to like, share, or comment on the post in order to enter the contest.
    • In some cases, legitimate accounts can be hijacked to run fraudulent giveaways.

    For example, Megan Nichols, the creator of an account highlighting places to dine in and explore in North Carolina, told ABC News that cybercriminals hijacked her last giveaway [*].

    The scammers opened fake Instagram accounts with names similar to hers, stole her pictures, and began messaging everyone who entered the real giveaway. Participants were notified that they were the “lucky winner.”

    • In this giveaway scam, criminals will ask for your home address so you can “claim your prize”, with an upfront payment request for “shipping costs.”
    • They might even attempt to phish you with a fake website, where you’ll need to enter your banking details in order to get paid.
    Take action: If you accidentally give scammers your personal data, they could take out loans in your name or empty your bank account. Try an identity theft protection service to monitor your finances and alert you to fraud.

    6. Money flipping scams

    Fake investment scams, “get-rich-quick” schemes, and “cash flipping” are reeling out of control on Instagram. According to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, Jebara Igbara — also known as Jay Mazini on Instagram — solicited money from investors for stock, electronics, and COVID-19 protective equipment [*].

    He pleaded guilty to bilking the Muslim-American community out of over $8 million through an investment scheme in November 2022.

    The scam in a nutshell:
    • A scam account will consistently flaunt their financial success and lavish lifestyle.
    • You will see non-stop stories and posts featuring expensive cars, luxury goods, and stacks of cash.
    • They write captions like “Be your own boss” and break into song about how they’ve become “self-made”.
    • They regularly dine at high-end restaurants while boasting about important “business meetings.”
    • They seem to always be on vacation — traveling somewhere exotic, or having a good time in cities like Miami, Las Vegas, or Dubai.
    • Once they’ve got your attention, they’ll promise to teach you how to be just as successful as they are.
    • To get started, all you need to do is deposit an “initial investment” so they can trade stocks or buy cryptocurrency on your behalf. But once you transfer the money, they vanish — along with your cash.

    📚 Related: How To Avoid Airline Scams (Don't Pay Extra for Cheap Flights)

    7. Crypto mining scams

    Similar to the money flipping scam, the crypto investment scam claims that you can invest $2,000 and get $20,000 back in just three hours [*].

    Real-life example of a crypto scam.
    Real-life example of a cryptocurrency scam.

    8. Fake job scams

    Unemployment rates were at 13% at the peak of the pandemic [*]. And scammers took full advantage of workers in straitened circumstances searching for jobs online.

    The scam in a nutshell:
    • Job scammers promote a job opportunity that doesn’t really exist.
    • Facebook and Instagram users will see posts and stories for very high-paying opportunities, which of course are too good to be true.
    • To apply or accept the job offer, you will need to submit your personal data.
    • They will request your home address, phone number, Social Security number, driver’s license, and more.
    • At this point, they will have stolen your identity.
    • Next, they will try to open credit card accounts in your name, accumulate debt, and drain your bank accounts.

    📚 Related: How To Avoid the "Pig Butchering" Scam Costing Victims Millions

    9. Romance scams

    Romance scammers are also known as catfish scammers. This is an emotional con that tugs at your heartstrings to cause tremendous emotional and financial harm.

    The scam in a nutshell:

    • Romance scammers will send suggestive messages to strangers from fake profiles.
    • The fake profile will masquerade as attractive person with an appealing lifestyle.
    • Over the course of days, weeks, or even months, their goal is to build “trust” that will lead you to develop feelings for them.
    • Eventually, the romance scammer will tell you about an “emergency” life situation that requires money to resolve.
    • Romance scammers are notorious for claiming that they have lost their jobs, need help with visas or rent, etc.
    • At this point, they will request money from you. They may even ask you to take out loans or open lines of credit against your will.

    📚 Related: The Unexpected Dangers of Online Dating

    10. Music promotion scams

    Music industry schemes are running rampant on Instagram — especially music promotion scams. Dubious alter egos may dub themselves as musicians to verify their accounts and secure lucrative endorsements

    The scam in a nutshell:
    • Accounts are boosted with fake followers — in some cases, millions.
    • These bogus promotion accounts use comment and DM bots to entice musicians and songwriters.
    • These embellished accounts will post your songs and even show you how many "views" were achieved.
    • Unfortunately, it's all an illusion. Your songs may have only gotten thousands of views by bots.
    example of instagram music promotion scam
    Source: Reddit

    How To Protect Yourself from Instagram Scams

    • Beware the red flags.
    • Use common sense.
    • Double check the URL.
    • Find the "Verified" blue check mark.
    • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA).
    • Be careful with third-party apps.
    Take action: Protect yourself from the risks of identity theft and fraud with Aura’s $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance. Try Aura free for 14 days to see if it’s right for you.

    Recognize the signs of a scammer

    • A stranger asking you for money.
    • A stranger asking you to claim a prize.
    • A stranger asking you to buy gift cards.
    • A stranger asking you to pay a fee in order to apply for a job.
    • A stranger asking you to move your conversation away from Instagram to a different app.
    • A stranger claiming to have a friend or relative in an emergency situation.
    • A stranger misrepresenting where they are located.
    • A stranger asking you to click on a suspicious link.
    • A stranger offering you a steep discount on luxury items.
    • Messages or posts with poor spelling and grammatical mistakes.
    • Accounts representing large companies, organizations, or public figures that are not verified.
    • People claiming to be from Instagram “Security” asking you to provide account information (like your username or password), or offering you account verification services.

    📚 Related: How To Protect Your Information on Social Media

    Double check the URL

    Instagram will never send you direct messages about your account in the Instagram app. To help you identify phishing and spam emails, you can view official Instagram emails sent to your account within the last 14 days by clicking on  your Settings.

    If you believe your account may have been compromised, go into your “Settings” and click “Login Activity” This page provides a list of all the locations where you’ve logged in to your account. If you don’t recognize a location, someone else may be logging in from that location.

    Find the verified blue check mark

    Instagram verifies official brand accounts and celebrity Instagram accounts with a blue check mark or tick next to their username. These brands will typically include a link to their official website in their bio as well.

    If an account doesn’t have this blue check mark, they’re not verified or legitimate. 

    Unsure whether an account is real? Go into their profile and select “About This Account.” Here you’ll see information such as:

    • When the user joined the platform
    • Their location
    • Whether they have changed their username
    • If they are running ads

    Most big brands will have an established track record. If you notice anything suspicious, you should block the account and report it to Instagram.

    Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)

    Enabling two-factor authentication means someone will need to pass a secondary checkpoint before they can log into your accounts. 

    Two-factor authentication (2FA) might include:

    • A text message to your phone with a unique code
    • An email with a link you’ll need to follow
    • An in-app security question or prompt that you’ll need to answer correctly
    • Biometrics (such as a fingerprint match or face recognition)

    Implement two-factor authentication across all your accounts wherever you can. This extra layer of defense may protect you from cybercriminals who have your username and password, but nothing else.

    Be careful with third-party apps

    It’s easy to forget about all the third-party apps that may be connected to your Instagram account. While these apps may allow you to share pictures back and forth, they could also be harvesting data and personal information. 

    Go into your “Settings” to view active and expired authorized apps to make sure you’re not leaving yourself vulnerable to fraudulent activity. 

    Try Aura Free For 14 Days

    Identity theft comes in many forms. That's why you should consider a digital security solution like Aura. Aura offers identity theft and fraud protection services for your finances, personal information, and devices.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers