The 10 Biggest Instagram Scams Happening Right Now

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Gaetano DiNardi

Head of Content at Aura

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    Avoid These 10 Instagram Schemes

    Instagram is a massive social media platform with over a billion active users — and scams are happening non-stop. 

    Scammers on Instagram are constantly thinking of new ways to trick you and steal your money.

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

    These social media con artists are often financially desperate people with no computer hacking skills at all. However, they are masters of deception and illusion.

    Even tech savvy people can get fooled — 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. 
    They are expert-level fraudsters when it comes to the following types of scams:
    • Phishing 
    • Romance Scams
    • Imposter Scams
    • Bitcoin Scams
    • Credit Card Fraud
    • Investment Fraud
    • Loan Fraud
    • Fake Giveaways
    • Fake Services
    • Fake Jobs
    • Fake Jewelry
    • Fake Merchandise
    Criminals are smart — but you have to be smarter. 

    In this guide, you’ll learn how to outsmart Instagram scammers and recognize the warning signs of common social media scams.

    10 Most Common Instagram Scams

    1. Phishing Scams.
    2. Fake Merchandise Scams.
    3. Fake Influencer Accounts.
    4. Fake 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.
    ⚠️  Must Watch! Wasting a Scammer's Time on Instagram

    1. Phishing Scams

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

    These hackers are not the most sophisticated. They use cloned login pages that are usually loaded with spelling errors and other design flaws. But if they catch you off-guard, or during a moment of distraction — you might fall for it. 

    ⚠️  Instagram Phishing Scam Overview:
    • In this fraud, you’ll 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 “suspicious activity”. 
    • Their main goal is to direct users to click on a link in order to “fix” the situation.
    • Of course, that link redirects users to a fake login page that looks identical to the real Instagram login page. 
    • People unknowingly enter their username and password, providing the fraudsters with everything they need for an account takeover.
    Once the scammers have stolen your login details, they can:
    • Change your password and lock you out of your account.
    • Steal personal data like your phone number.
    • Get access to connected third-party apps.
    • Post scam advertisements on your profile page.
    • Impersonate you and send malware links to your friends and family.
    • Impersonate you and send messages to your followers asking for money.
    • Blackmail you for money in exchange for your account. 
    ⚠️  Scam Instagram Account Example
    scam instagram account example
    Example of a scam Instagram account.
    ⚠️  Instagram Phishing DM Example:
    scam instagram phishing DM example
    Example of a phishing DM from a scam Instagram page.

    2. Fake Merchandise Scams

    Selling counterfeit goods is a massive scam on Instagram, and it’s rampant across user accounts and Instagram advertising.

    According to research [*]:

    • Roughly 20% of all posts highlighting top fashion brands feature counterfeit goods.
    • More than 50,000 accounts promote and sell these knock-offs every day.
    • Counterfeit product scams have increased by over 170% since 2016.
    ⚠️  Fake Merchandise Scam Overview:
    • These con artists 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 pics of products using photoshop to make the products look amazing in the advertisements. 
    • Shoppers can “place orders” online, but will never receive the items.
    • Others receive low-quality goods or complete knock-offs.
    • Almost 4,000 people have reported these types of bait-and-switch or counterfeit Instagram scams to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker [*]. 

    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 get scammed.

    The Bad News: There’s nothing Instagram can do to prevent them from creating new scam accounts and running the same types of 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. 

    This isn't your lucky day. It’s just a scam. 
    ⚠️  Fake Guru Scam Overview:
    • 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 legitimate 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 has nothing to do with finance. It’s just an attractive woman aiming to get your attention. 
    • Preying on your emotional weakness, the account will tell you about incredible “investment opportunities” in crypto, forex, or real estate. 
    💡 Related: How To Protect Your Privacy Online

    4. Fake Sponsorship Scams

    Social media influencers use Instagram to promote products or services in exchange for a commission fee. However, not all that glitters is gold. 

    ⚠️  Instagram Sponsorship Scam Overview:
    • These 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 an “itinerary.”
    • Before your “partnership” begins, they’ll ask you to cover up-front costs like travel expenses to meet their team.
    • They’ll ask you to cover fees like hotel accommodations and even photoshoot expenses.
    • The scammers will promise to reimburse you for these expenses after you feature their product in your Instagram posts. 
    • They might even promise you a “sign-on bonus.” And of course, they’ll need your banking details. How convenient!
    💡 Related: The 12 Latest Social Engineering Attacks to Avoid

    5. Lottery, Sweepstakes or Giveaway Scams

    Plenty of well-known brands host legitimate 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.”

    ⚠️  Instagram Giveaway Scam Overview:
    • A copycat account with fake followers will trick 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 eat 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 started messaging everyone who entered the real giveaway.
    • Participants were messaged by this scam account, notified that they’re 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. 
    💡 Related: 20+ Examples of Fraud & Scams to Avoid

    6. Money Flipping Scams

    Fake investment scams, “get rich quick” schemes, and sketchy “cash flipping” has gotten out of control on Instagram. 

    ⚠️  Instagram Money Flipping Scam Overview:
    • A scam account will prey on your emotional weakness by flaunting financial success and a 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 rant endlessly about how they’ve become “self-made” etc. 
    • They are regularly eating at high end restaurants while boasting about important “business meetings.”
    • They seem to always be on vacation — traveling somewhere exotic, or partying in cities like Miami, Las Vegas or Dubai. 
    • Once they’ve got you hooked on the lifestyle con, they’ll promise you can learn how to do it too!
    • 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 disappear — along with your cash. 
    ⚠️  Real-Life Instagram Scammer Hush Puppi:
    hush puppi instagram scammer
    Source: New York Post
    ⚠️  Instagram Money Flipping Scam EXPOSED:

    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 crypto scam.

    8. Fake Job Scams

    Unfortunately, a lot of people lost their jobs during the pandemic[*].

    And scammers took full advantage of financially strapped people searching for jobs online. 

    ⚠️  Fake Job Scam Overview:
    • Job scammers promote a job opportunity that doesn’t really exist
    • Facebook & 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’ll need to submit your personal data.
    • They’ll request your home address, phone number, social security number, driver’s license and beyond. 
    • At this point, they have stolen your identity. 
    • Next, they will try to open credit card accounts in your name, rack up credit card debt, and drain your bank accounts.
    💡 Related: Top Unemployment Scams to Watch Out For →

    9. Romance Scams

    Romance scammers are also known as catfish scammers.

    This is an emotional con that leverages “love” to cause tremendous emotional and financial harm

    ⚠️  Instagram Romance Scam Overview:
    • Romance scammers will send flirty or seductive messages to strangers from fake profiles. 
    • The fake profile will represent a very 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, and needs money to resolve it.
    • Romance scammers are notorious for claiming they lost their job, need help with a visa, can’t pay their rent, got hurt in a car accident, 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.

    There is also a songwriter scam making its rounds, but for now we'll remain focused on the classic Instagram promotion scam targeting musicians.

    ⚠️  Did You Know? Fake Music Streams Are Running Rampant!
    ⚠️  Music Promotion Scam Overview:
    • Accounts are boosted with fake followers — in some cases, millions.
    • These bogus promo accounts use comment / DM bots to entice musicians and songwriters.
    • These fluffed up accounts will post your songs and even show you how many "views" were achieved.
    • Unfortunately, it's all an illusion. Your songs have indeed gotten "thousands of views" — by bots.
    example of instagram music promotion scam
    Source: Reddit

    Bonus: Bot Accounts, Fake Followers & Fake Comments

    This is a truly fascinating scam making its rounds on Instagram.

    Here, they are claiming you can earn "10k real followers" with "top tier engagement included."

    Unfortunately, it's all a scam. Similar to the music promotion scheme, they just use bots to boost your account.

    scam instagram DM

    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 3rd party apps.
    ​​
    Pro tip:
    Facebook and Instagram have shared a list of warning signs that indicate you may be dealing with a con artist. Full summary below.

    Signs of a Scammer on Instagram or Facebook

    • 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 an extreme 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” (like this).

    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 changed their username
    • if they’re 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. 

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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