The 11 Latest Telegram App Scams To Watch Out For

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Jory MacKay

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    Beware Of These Telegram Scams

    With over 550 million  monthly active users, Telegram is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world [*]. But Telegram’s popularity — and its supposed high levels of security— have also made it a favorite among hackers and scammers. 

    Telegram scams are similar to fake text messages, scam emails, and robocalls you receive every day.

    Scammers use social engineering tactics to trick you into giving up personally identifiable information (PII), such as your credit card number, Social Security number (SSN), or two-factor authentication (2FA) codes for crypto and social media accounts. 

    So, what are the most common Telegram app scams to watch out for? And how can you tell a Telegram imposter from a legitimate friend or contact? 

    What are Telegram Scams? How Do They Work?

    Telegram scams are fraudulent schemes that either take place on the Telegram app or draw users off the app and onto a dangerous third-party site. 

    Scammers flock to Telegram due to its widespread popularity and ease of use. All you need is a phone number to create an account. The scams range from traditional phishing schemes to sophisticated bot attacks masquerading as legitimate customer support agents. 

    Watch: How to protect your bank and financial information from scammers →

    Here’s how some of the typical Telegram scams play out:

    • Phishing attacks. A Telegram user poses as someone you’d otherwise trust (such as a friend, colleague, or a customer support agent) to trick you into giving up your personal information. 
    • Off-platform scams. Someone sends you a link or convinces you to go off the Telegram platform and onto a less-secure site. This site could be used to steal your personal information or even infect your device with malware.
    • Telegram bot attacks. The Telegram platform allows users to create bot accounts, which scammers use to rapidly target vulnerable legitimate accounts. In 2020, 350,000 bot accounts were banned from the platform due to their usage by child abusers and terrorists [*].
    • Crypto scams. Telegram has become the go-to platform for people interested in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Many cybercriminals target Telegram users to get access to their crypto wallets, and transfer out their bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum, and other coins. 

    These are only a few high-level examples of the types of scams you’ll find on Telegram. Even worse, scammers are always finding new ways to commit fraud and steal personal information from unsuspecting Telegram users. 

    11 Telegram Scams To Watch Out For

    1. “Copycat” or fake Telegram channels and groups
    2. “Crypto expert” scams
    3. Phishing with Telegram bots
    4. Tech support scams
    5. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency giveaways
    6. Lookalike Telegram admin accounts
    7. “Classiscam” schemes (fake classified ad scams)
    8. “Pump and dump” crypto channels
    9. Fake job listings and offers that ask for interviews over Telegram
    10. “Friend in need” scams
    11. Telegram romance scams

    1. “Copycat” or fake Telegram channels and groups

    Telegram channels and groups are places where multiple users can come together and talk about topics that they care about. However, scammers will often create “copycat” versions of popular channels to lure in victims with a false sense of security. 

    These channels will look the same as familiar ones. They might have similar names and profile pictures, include the same pinned messages, and have admins with usernames nearly identical to legitimate ones. 

    You’ll also see lots of activity from “users” — actively chatting about whatever promotions, get-rich-quick-schemes, or supposed free prizes the channel is promoting. (Many of these channels target cryptocurrency investors with flash sales of pre-launch tokens.)

    Soon, however, other users or admins will start contacting you to try and get you to click on a link or give up personal information that they can use for identity theft or to hack into your accounts

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    If you’re added to (or join) a new Telegram channel, check to see whether you can enter a message or if the channel is “broadcast only.” This means that only admins can post messages. To check, look for a loudspeaker icon next to the channel name. 

    In one example, a scammer created a Telegram group titled “Coinbase” and added thousands of users. Then, the scammer posed as a Coinbase representative and advertised daily giveaways — all while trying to gain access to peoples’ accounts [*].

    What to do:

    • Report any imposters or dangerous Telegram channels. Click on the three dots in the corner and open “Report.” Then, select your reason. 
    • Change your settings to only allow your account to be added to new groups and channels from your contacts. To do this, go to “Settings” and then “Privacy and Security” and then “Groups & Channels.” Change who can add you to groups from “Everyone” to “My Contacts.”

    Pro tip: Keep your online and financial accounts safe from scammers with an all-in-one cybersecurity and identity theft protection service. Aura monitors all your accounts for signs of fraud or suspicious activity and warns you if you’re at risk of identity theft.

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    2. “Crypto Expert” scams

    Telegram has become one of the most popular messaging platforms for people interested in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. But scammers have taken advantage of this fact and pose as crypto experts on Telegram to scam victims out of coins, money, or account logins. 

    Most of these scams involve the promise of a “guaranteed” return on your crypto investment. Scammers will post replies to Twitter comments, or reach out to you directly on Telegram claiming to be able to provide a 50% return on your investment. 

    If you engage, scammers will ask you to open an account on their “special” crypto exchange. At that point, they’ll show you charts and graphs demonstrating that your investment is increasing; but when you try to take out your “earnings”, the scammer will disappear — along with your account. 

    In one example, a man sent $50 in Bitcoin to an exchange and soon received $30 in profits. He told his friends, and they all invested their life savings in this scam. But once all the money was received, the faux broker disappeared with everyone’s money [*].

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    The FBI estimates that close to 25,000 people fell victim to crypto scams last year and lost nearly $1 billion [*].

    Be cautious of anyone who brags about “guaranteed” returns or claims to have access to a “special” crypto exchange. These are all telltale signs of a Telegram crypto investment scam.

    What to do:

    • Ignore anyone who claims to be able to offer a “guaranteed” return on any investment — especially crypto. 
    • Don’t invest in “special” cryptocurrency exchanges, as these are often faked. 
    • Never send money, crypto, or account information to someone you’ve only interacted with on Telegram or on other messaging platforms like Whatsapp. 

    3. Phishing with Telegram bots

    One of the things that makes Telegram unique is its ability to build and use bots on the platform. Telegram bots use natural language processing and artificial intelligence (AI) to engage in realistic conversations, which makes it hard to tell if you’re being scammed.

    In one recent version of this scam, hackers used a bot known as SMSRanger to pose as representatives from banks and companies like PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and commonly used mobile carriers [*]. 

    Once hackers enter a Telegram user’s phone number, the bot calls and convinces the user to give up personal information, bank account logins, passwords, and even two-factor authentication (2FA) codes. 

    Scammers on forums claim that these bots are effective 80% of the time if a user answers the call. Even worse, anyone can get access to these bots and run scams for as little as $300 a month [*].

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Telegram bot scams exhibit the typical warning signs of a phishing scam, including:

    • A false sense of urgency. Scammers claim your account has been compromised, or some error is putting you at risk. 
    • Spoofed or strange phone numbers. Look for phone numbers that don’t seem right or don’t match the company’s official number. 
    • Grammatical and spelling errors. Scammers and bots won’t communicate the same way that a customer support representative will. 
    • Requests for sensitive information. They’ll ask you to provide account details, 2FA codes, or passwords to “verify” your identity. 

    What to do:

    If you get an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to be from your bank (or other organization), hang up and call back using their official number. Don’t trust your caller ID, either, as scammers can spoof or disguise their number to look like it’s coming from someone else. 

    Remember: a company will never reach out to you over Telegram or any other third-party messaging platform.

    Related: How To Tell If An Email Is From a Scammer (With Examples)

    4. Tech support scams

    Another common Telegram bot scam involves fraudsters creating accounts that mimic legitimate tech support agents. These bots will scan channels and groups for key words and phrases, and then reach out claiming to be from a company. But along the way, they’ll start asking for your sensitive information or request that you pay for “premium” support. 

    An example of a Telegram tech support scam
    An example of a Telegram tech support scam. Source: Coinbase

    Sometimes, these accounts will use display names that look legitimate (i.e., “Coinbase Support Chat”). They might even ask to take remote control of your laptop or device to “fix” the issue. 

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Be cautious of any account that reaches out to you and offers support. If you’re dealing with issues with a company or account, always contact them directly through official channels. 

    Also, beware of anyone charging for “premium” support or pushing you to pay for an account “upgrade.” These are telltale signs of a scam.  

    What to do:

    • Take a look at the account’s actual username to see if it matches its screen name. 
    • Block and report any suspicious accounts to both Telegram and the company that’s being impersonated. 

    5. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency giveaways

    Free prizes, sweepstakes, and giveaways are some of the oldest frauds around. Not surprisingly, these scams have made their way onto Telegram. 

    In these scams, a bot or Telegram account will reach out and pretend to offer giveaways from well-known companies (such as Apple, Amazon, or Venmo) or crypto exchanges. But in order to get the prize, you need to provide your banking information, personal data, and/or pay a “fee.”

    Crypto giveaway scams are rampant on Telegram. Source: Binance

    Once you give the scammers what they want, they disappear and your prize never materializes. 

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    While some companies run sweepstakes and giveaways, almost all of them require some initial action on your part. If you didn’t enter a drawing, the giveaway is most likely a scam. You can always reach out to the company directly to see if the prize is legitimate or not.

    What to do:

    • Ignore and block any accounts that contact you claiming to offer a prize. 
    • Never pay a “fee” to get a prize — especially if you are asked to pay in cryptocurrency or via payment apps like Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App. 

    6. Lookalike Telegram admin accounts

    Telegram usernames are unique, so a scammer can’t exactly copy an existing one. However, to pull off many of these scams, scammers create account names that mimic legitimate ones.

    Lookalike accounts will often reach out to “help” you after you ask a public question. But in reality, they’re just trying to access your account or lure you off-platform where they can scam you with a phishing site. 

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Search the account name, and look for misspellings and letter swaps in an admin’s name — especially if the username and screen name don’t match. (An example of this could be “TichSupport” instead of “TechSupport”). 

    An example of a “lookalike” Telegram admin account with a slightly misspelled username.
    An example of a “lookalike” admin account with a slightly misspelled username. Source: Qtum

    You should also be cautious of admins or users who send you direct messages rather than posting publicly in the group. Direct messages are a favorite tool of Telegram scammers, as these messages make it harder to verify with whom you’re actually communicating.

    What to do:

    • Search the group to find posts from the user who has contacted you. If nothing comes up, you’re dealing with a scammer.
    • Never give out personal information or passwords in a direct message.
    • Report scam accounts to both Telegram and the company being impersonated. 

    7. “Classiscam” schemes (fake classified ad scams)

    The “Classiscam,” scheme is a version of the Telegram bot scam that has swindled victims out of $6.5 million in recent years [*].

    In this scam, criminals create fake listings on classified sites for products like cameras, laptops, and iOS devices. The ad will ask you to reach out over Telegram to discuss the deal. But when you message them, you’ll be put in touch with a bot designed to steal your personal information.

    In another variation, scammers will reach out directly on Telegram and then send you a link to their listing. When you click on it, you’ll be taken to a page that looks almost identical to a page on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or others. 

    But in order to complete the sale, you’ll be asked for personal information including your home address and credit card information. 

    This sort of scam is currently spreading through Europe and has undoubtedly made its way to the United States [*].

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Look for the red flags of online sales scams —  including suspiciously low prices, sellers who refuse to meet in person, or sellers asking you to talk to them over Telegram. 

    If you’re taken to a site in order to complete a sale, look for signs of a phishing site — such as strange design details, spelling and grammar mistakes, or a “non-secure” URL. (A secure URL  uses “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP” and will include a padlock symbol in the URL field.)

    What to do:

    • Always try to view items in person, or verify sellers before sending them any information or payments. 
    • Only use payment platforms that protect your money, such as credit cards or PayPal. If you’re scammed, you’ll have a much higher chance of recovering lost money using these payment methods. 

    Pro tip: Use antivirus software that includes phishing site protection. Aura can warn you if the site you’re entering is trying to steal your information.

    Aura antivirus with phishing protection
    [Source: Aura antivirus with phishing protection]

    8. “Pump and dump” crypto channels

    In a “pump and dump” scam, the owners of a Telegram channel try to coordinate price manipulation of a cryptocurrency with a large group of members. The admins may claim to have “special” or insider knowledge; but in reality, they’re trying to pump the value of an asset they own and then sell it off before it crashes. 

    In many of these scams, admins will also charge a fee for VIP membership, hitting their victims doubly hard. 

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Many of these scam Telegram channels call themselves “signal groups” and mask their true intentions behind market insights and insider information. This can make them hard to identify. 

    However, one common sign of a scam is a sense of urgency. These groups will often try to get you to act quickly without thinking, and elicit fear that you could miss out on a great opportunity. 

    Remember the golden rule of fraud prevention: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

    What to do:

    • Don’t fall victim to a false sense of urgency. Always do your due diligence before investing. 
    • Look for the historical performance of the group. Have they successfully predicted price increases in the past? 

    9. Fake job listings and offers that ask for interviews over Telegram

    Employment scams are rife on professional platforms such as Indeed and LinkedIn — and many of them use Telegram as one of their elements.

    In this scam, fake employers post listings for enticing job opportunities. They’ll offer a high wage and flexible working hours. Their only requirements are that you find and add a “Hiring Manager” on Telegram (because these can’t be tracked on the app).

    Once you get in touch, they’ll try to take advantage of you by either getting you to give up sensitive information or by asking you to pay for training materials.  

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Almost all fake job scams follow the same formula. The “employer” will offer a higher-than-average wage, flexible working hours, and require that you contact them over Telegram (or another encrypted messaging platform) for an interview. 

    Telegram employment scam example
    [Source: Reddit]

    These fake job scammers will ask for more information (such as your SSN) than is required for a legitimate job application. They’ll often ask you to pay for training materials either using your own money or with a check that they will send you. But either way, you’ll get stuck with the bill, never be reimbursed, or the check will end up being fraudulent.

    What to do:

    • Don’t give out personal or sensitive information to recruiters until you’ve seen an official contract and met them in person.
    • Look for signs that the job is a scam. This might include a short interview process or no paperwork in place when the recruiter says you’re “hired.” 

    10. “Friend in need” scams

    In this scam, fraudsters collect enough information about your friends or family members to impersonate them on Telegram. The scammers will reach out to you and ask for help with an urgent matter. For example, they may tell you they need money for rent or have been in a car accident and need you to help pay their medical bills. 

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Scammers can find enough information in online footprints and social media profiles to plausibly impersonate your friends. But they’ll often make mistakes that should trigger your warning instincts. 

    Listen to the language they use. Does it sound like your friend? Are they using words incorrectly or formatting sentences in an awkward way? Also, look for a sense of urgency. Would your friend or relative ask you for this favor without context or explanation? 

    What to do:

    • If you’re at all suspicious, ask them questions that only the real person would know how to answer — such as details about recent activities you did together (and didn’t post about online). 
    • If you confirm that it’s a scammer, block and report the account right away. 
    • Tell your friends and family about the scam so they won’t be targeted next. 

    11. Telegram romance scams

    Romance scams occur when scammers start a fraudulent relationship with you online in order to gain your trust. On Telegram, romance scams are often focused on hookups or sexual content. 

    Many of these scammers will ask for gifts or cash to help them cover expenses to come see you. For example, one Reddit user described chatting with a woman on Telegram who claimed she couldn’t meet up because she had to watch her kids. She asked the user to send a Steam gift card so that her kids could be distracted (gift cards are often solicited during scams because they are another untraceable form of currency) [*].

    In other cases, scammers will ask you to send them sensitive photos or videos, which they then use for blackmail (i.e., sextortion). 

    ⚠️ How to spot the scam:

    Romance scammers will never be able to meet up in person, and will always have excuses that prevent them from meeting over video. They’ll also try to quickly make relationships more intimate by saying they love you or sending sensitive photos (which are often stolen from other accounts). 

    But by far, the easiest way to spot a romance scammer is if they ask you for money.  

    What to do:

    • Never send money to people you’ve only met on Telegram — no matter what they tell you it’s for. 
    • Don’t share too much personal information right away. Even basic questions about your family or work could be used to hack your accounts or brute force your passwords. 

    Related: The Unexpected Dangers of Online Dating

    How Do You Know If Someone Is Real on Telegram?

    Telegram scammers are getting more creative, which means you may be targeted in a scam that’s similar but not identical to the ones described above. In those cases, you’ll have to use your best judgment when chatting with other Telegram users.

    If you’re suspicious of an account, here are some ways to tell if you’re dealing with a scammer or Telegram bot:

    1. If someone sends you a direct message, ask them to respond in the main group. Scammers will always try to keep their conversations private to avoid detection. 
    2. If an “admin” asks you for personal information, take a screenshot of their profile and send it to another channel admin. A real user will be able to tell you if you are interacting with a legitimate account or not. 
    3. Question why they would need your personal information. If someone is asking for your login information, location, photos, and videos of you — or for you to send them money — it is likely a scam account. 

    Were You the Victim of a Telegram Scam? Here’s What To Do

    If you’ve merely sent messages to a scammer or bot, you should be fine. Break off contact with them, and then block and report the scam account.

    • How to block a Telegram scammer’s account: Go to the user’s profile, click on the three dots in the corner of your screen, and select “Block user.”
    • How to report a Telegram scam account or channel: Send a screenshot of the scam account and any other information to @notoscam on Telegram (or via their website). You can also send an email to: abuse@telegram.org

    If you’ve given the scammer personal information, clicked on a link, or sent them money, you’ll need to take extra precautions. 

    First, look for the warning signs of identity theft and follow the steps on how to recover after your identity is stolen

    Then, contact your bank to alert them of potential fraud. Next, sign up for credit monitoring and request a credit freeze from the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. 

    Finally, get in touch with the payment processor you used and see if your payment can be refunded.

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    How To Prevent Telegram Scams

    • Be suspicious of all links, even if they come from your friends (whose accounts may be hacked) or lookalike accounts. 
    • Be suspicious of all strangers and offers. When using such a popular and accessible platform, it’s important to understand the responsibility you have to protect yourself.
    • Never share your login credentials. And don’t trust threatening messages claiming to come from Telegram, crypto-wallets, banks, or any other websites that hold your personal information. 
    • Always create a strong password to prevent scammers from hacking into your account. Use a unique, hard-to-guess combination of at least 10 upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t reuse this password for anything else. To help you keep track of all your passwords, consider using a password manager.
    • Adjust your privacy settings. As soon as you create your Telegram account, turn on end-to-end encryption. For added security, turn on passcode or fingerprint ID, and add two-step verification (2FA).
    • Keep the email and phone number associated with your account updated. This will help verify that your account belongs to you if you ever lose access to it.

    Stay Safe From Telegram Scammers

    Telegram is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and connecting with people online. And with heightened diligence and awareness, you can use Telegram without the fear of getting scammed. 

    For extra protection, consider signing up for Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution. Aura protects your devices and networks from hackers, can warn you of phishing sites and malware, and monitors your accounts for signs of fraud. 

    And if the worst should happen, you’re covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft. 

    Stay one step ahead of cybercriminals — Try Aura 14-Days Free!

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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