Watch Out for Instagram Scams

When people try to avoid social media scams, they typically think of the Facebook hoaxes that circulate from time to time or even the private messages sent through Facebook that offer you money or prizes.

But the truth is any social media website can be a vehicle for scammers to try to commit fraud, and Instagram is falling in line with the rest of them. When the popular photo sharing site makes news, it’s usually because a celebrity is trying to convince people that her two-year-old accidentally posted a picture of Mommy in a bikini. The reality, though, is that falling for a scam can be all too easy on Instagram since it’s based on visual imagery.

When you see a photo that looks like it was posted by a well-known corporation or individual, it’s much easier to believe than a message sent by a stranger.

1. One of the top Instagram scams is the “something for sharing” scam.

Whether it’s promises of gift cards from that business, free products, or entries into high-dollar sweepstakes, scammers get you to click an image and share it while you hope to win big. What do scammers get out of it? That depends. It could just be access to your contacts’ accounts in order to target you and your friends with advertising—annoying, but harmless. It could also be a mechanism into hacking your actual account though, which is something you want to avoid. The best way to avoid this is to remember that no company needs you to do their advertising for them. Sure, sharing a post is a great way to tell your friends about a legitimate sale at one of your favorite stores, but corporations are not giving away iPads just because you shared their post.

2. Based on what is essentially the idea behind a pyramid scheme (in which you send in $100, for example, and get ten other people to join in, sending you their $100), Instagram has become a hotbed of money flipping schemes.

There’s a catch, though; before the internet, pyramid schemes managed to lure people in because you ostensibly knew the people you were dealing with. You got pulled in by someone you know, then turned around and invited people you know. With the Instagram version, however, you don’t have any idea who these people are. Even worse, the funds are submitted via prepaid debit card. You’re instructed to go buy a card—the more money on it, the bigger your “flip,” or payout—and then post the card number and PIN number on the post. The scammer drains the funds from the prepaid card, and then the game is over for you. No flip, no payout, no nothing.

3. One of the chief problems with Instagram scams is the appearance of people you know “liking” and commenting on the post, giving it their approval. By using hacked accounts or spoof accounts, scammers lead you to believe people you actually know have won big money, earned free goods and gift cards, and more.

Remember that it’s all too easy to create a fake account that looks like it belongs to a friend or family member, so if you’re ever approached by an account you think you know, that doesn’t mean the activity is safe. Trust your instincts when it comes to the “no such thing as a free lunch” rule, and verify any communication with your friend before turning over any money.


Have questions about identity theft? Download the free ID Theft Help app for on-the-go assistance.

Read next: 5 Things You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

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