Think of the apps you use every day. Considering the popularity of Instagram, I’d venture it’s probably on that list. If you use the app regularly, chances are you’ve encountered your fair share of Instagram scams — although you might not have recognized all of them for what they were.
A study by cloud security company Lookout shows most people encountered at least one scam per month on social media. Even worse, 56% of people encountered a scam weekly on Instagram. According to Lookout’s research, people most frequently encountered “free prize” scams. And the trend keeps ramping up too. More than twice the number of people reported losing money to the FTC via social media fraud in 2021 compared to 2020, resulting in $770 million in losses.
These Cash App scams on Instagram aren’t usually technically complex. In fact, scams are generally run by crafty criminals with simple tools, but they use deceptively clever tricks to fool you. If you know how to spot their tricks, though, and use a few good security precautions, you should be able to avoid falling into the Instagram scam trap.
How to Spot Instagram Scams from a Mile Away
If you’ve fallen victim to a scam before, even outside of Instagram, it’s not because you’re gullible. This isn’t something only technically illiterate people fall for — anyone can slip up. Many types of Cash App scams on Instagram are believably convincing and catch you off guard.
Getting scammed isn’t your fault, but you can improve your chances of spotting a scam by knowing the traits they commonly share. You can apply many of these traits to other social media scams as well, and some of them also share similar techniques to email and SMS phishing scams.
Instagram scams typically share these common traits:
- Seems too good to be true
- Contacts you out of the blue
- Looks like a new account with few followers
- Creates posts seemingly unrelated to the account on its profile
- Posts spam comments on unrelated public posts
- Has an account name representing an official business but isn’t verified or uses punctuation to space out its name in a strange way
- Uses language riddled with grammar errors
- Sends unprompted DMs about collaborations or with suspicious-looking links
Of course, even though these behaviors are common among scammers, plenty of scams break the mold. That’s why you need to approach posts, links, and direct messages on Instagram with caution. It can also help to know the most popular types of scams cybercriminals typically like to use.
10 Most Common Types of Instagram Scams
It’s hard to pin down every type of scam out there, as they’re continually evolving. Lucky for us, just like Instagram influencers, scammers also like to follow the latest trends, making it easier to know what to look out for. Instagram scammers typically use these popular scams to steal your money, data, or account login information.
Sometimes, the scammers’ intentions are even more insidious, as identity thieves have set their sights on social media. Some use social engineering tactics while others use phishing links to get you to reveal your personal information. Whatever their intention, scammers like to prey on their victims using these types of scams.
1. Fake Investment Scams
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Instagram (or anywhere on social media really), you’ve seen at least one comment from someone praising an investment broker who changed their life. Investment scams are rife these days and nasty scammers use a few different tactics to trap unsuspecting victims on their web of lies. The results, though, are the same: your net worth takes a small dive.
Besides commenting about their supposed riches on popular posts on Instagram, many investment scammers send you unsolicited DMs. If you have a private account, they’ll usually try to follow you first. When you look at their accounts, it’s often full of photos of someone wearing expensive clothes, next to luxury cars, and on expensive vacations.
The profile’s bio will also be some variation of how they can help you make money through investments — crypto investments are particularly popular.
2. Romance Scams
If you’ve searched for love online, you’re not alone. Worldwide, over 300 million people used dating apps to find a hookup or significant other in 2022. It’s not uncommon to go looking through Instagram for potential dates either, and scammers make ample use of this.
You won’t always know instantly if that unsolicited DM you just got is a potential love match or a fraudster looking to sink their claws into your wallet. Many romance scams on Instagram start with the scammer liking some of your posts followed by a flirty DM. If you reply, the real game starts — and ends with them asking for money, usually to cover the cost of an emergency or a trip to come see you.
Of course, that trip never happens because they suddenly can’t make it. Instagram romance scammers regularly modify their tactics to get you to wire over some cash, but this is a popular method. If the person on the other side looks too good to be true and is overly interested, maybe it’s time to start asking some questions.
3. Fake Product Scams
When you go to a tented market in the street and see knockoff Gucci bags, you know what you’re getting isn’t the real thing. This gets much more difficult online, especially on Instagram which has made a massive push towards ecommerce lately.
Shop posts have become a regular feature, letting you get to the product in one click, whether you go to the owner’s shop account on Instagram or their website. Unfortunately, scammers also exploit these features and counterfeit goods have become a massive problem on social platforms.
Facebook and Instagram are the key marketplaces where counterfeit goods get sold to members of the public. It used to be eBay 10 years ago, and Amazon five years ago.Benedict Hamilton, managing director at Kroll
4. Fake Giveaway Scams
Scammers use giveaways to harvest your personal information by setting up fake accounts with giveaways promising amazing prizes but only delivering disappointment. Instagram has plenty of legitimate giveaways, but some are scams in disguise and these are hard to identify.
Usually, scammers won’t pay to sponsor an ad on Instagram. They’ll get you to follow their fake account where they promote giveaways by posting comments on popular posts to advertise it. Some scammers abuse real giveaways by creating a fake account with a similar brand name and messaging people who participated in the real giveaway.
They’ll then send you a DM to tell you you’ve won the prize and try to get you to click on a phishing link or ask for your personal information. Sometimes, giveaway scammers also try to convince you to make a payment to cover shipping costs for your prize. You’ll be waiting forever for that package to arrive though.
5. Imposter Business/Influencer Accounts
Giveaway scammers aren’t the only breed of cybercriminal impersonating real brands. Instagram shopping is becoming more popular by the day and scammers may not have anything to sell, but they have plenty for you to buy.
They create accounts impersonating real brands or influencers, with loads of fake followers to make it appear legitimate. These scammers will often set up flash sales and exclusive deals with unbelievable prices for high-end brands. Their posts look very convincing too, with many using expert photoshop skills to make their sales enticing.
Sadly, all those killer deals might just mean the death of your bank account. Not because you decided to treat yo self but because a scammer stole your banking information and decided your funds would look better in their account. Some scammers actually do have brand items to sell, but it’s all counterfeit — you might as well have ordered it on Wish.com.
6. Loan Scams
Believe it or not, you can get big loans through Instagram! If that sounds absurd, it’s because it is. Yet, loan scams thrive on social media platforms like Instagram. These scammers claim you can borrow money instantly, but request a small processing fee. Once you pay the deposit via PayPal, Cash App, or a bank transfer, the scammer disappears.
While this may seem obviously unsafe to some, people have different risk appetites. Enough people are clearly willing to take the chance with their money since these types of scams are still around.
7. Cash App Scams
One of the most popular Cash App scams on Instagram involves scammers sending claims if you send them a certain amount, they’ll pay you an even larger amount back. Usually, this is framed as either a form of altruism or they claim they work for Cash App and can game the system from their side. Unfortunately, this generous offer ends the moment you send them any money.
8. Phishing Scams
These types of scams don’t happen on the app, but via emails containing suspicious links. They use different premises to get you there, but the aim is to get you to click on a link and log into Instagram. Except it’s not Instagram, but a fake web page which has now stolen your login credentials. Once they have those, scammers use your profile to target other people with various Instagram scams.
9. Fake Job Scams
Ever thought about how much information you give away when applying for a job? Scammers have. Job scams prey on people promising dream positions and lucrative opportunities, but the only one walking away with a payday is the scammer. All you get is a case of identity theft.
Some job scams aren’t out to steal your data but your money instead. They advertise easy money-making positions but to get the opportunity, you have to pay a small application or training fee first. A real company will never ask for your money — they should only be paying you.
10. Buy Likes and Followers Scam
Likes and followers are practically a currency of their own. While some legitimate businesses are aimed at growing your follower count, fraudsters have found it to be a lucrative way to relieve you of some funds.
Most of these scams involve stealing your money when you pay the scammer for the “service” of increasing your followers and like count. Instead of putting in the hard work to grow your channel, the scammer simply sets up a host of bots using fake accounts to boost your follower count and like your content. Some don’t even do that and you never hear from them again.
How to Not Lose Money on Instagram Scams
Don’t want to fall into the Instagram scam trap? The biggest tool in your arsenal is a healthy dose of skepticism. Yes, this sounds deceptively simple, but many people fail at being attentive because they get lulled into believing whatever they see on the app. Alongside using your common sense, you can also apply some generally good security habits to make yourself a smaller target for Instagram scams.
Here are a few things you can apply to your daily Insta feed scrolling:
- Ignore DMs asking for money, for any reason.
- Double-check the name, description, and content of an account before interacting with it.
- Don’t click on links sent to you via DM.
- Avoid clicking on links in an account’s description unless you’re sure it’s trustworthy.
- Ignore any DMs from new or unknown accounts claiming you’ve won a prize.
- Scrutinize an account’s content to see whether it looks fake, stolen, or staged.
- Stick to reputable sources for finance-related topics like cryptocurrencies and loans.
- Report any accounts acting suspiciously to Instagram.
- Log in directly on the app or website, never from a link someone sent to you.
In addition to the tips above, you can also follow these general Instagram safety tips:
- Set your Instagram account to private, unless you’re running a business account which requires visibility.
- Change your Instagram privacy settings, including who can mention and message you according to what you find comfortable.
- Turn off your activity status in the settings menu, especially if you’re concerned about stalkers.
- Don’t geo-tag your posts while you’re still at the same location or places you go to regularly.
- Avoid uploading photos or videos others can easily use to identify your home address or current location
- Refrain from replying to obvious trolls or harassment
- Use the block button liberally as needed
Your online safety isn’t just threatened by scammers on Instagram. Malicious threat actors can target you in a whole host of ways, usually with the aim to steal your identity and/or relieve you of your funds. Use CyberGhost VPN to secure your connection against snoopers and a range of threats, including man-in-the-middle attacks and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Sometimes, prevention simply isn’t enough and you were tricked into clicking on a link or giving away your money or information. What happens then?
Instagram Scammer Got Your Money? Here’s What You Can Do
Let’s start this off on a depressing note: you’re probably never getting that money back. This doesn’t mean your hands are entirely tied. If you’re concerned a scammer may have gotten hold of your account details, other personal information, or money, here’s what you can do.
How to Handle a Hacked Instagram Account
The first thing to do when you suspect your Instagram account has been hacked is to contact Instagram for support. The company has a support page dedicated to this, detailing all the steps you can take to report the incident, get help, and hopefully get your account back.
Also be sure to notify your family and friends (and other followers) of potential phishing scams attackers may send from your hacked account.
How to Handle Stolen Funds or Personal Information
If you notice or even just suspect your personal or financial information has been compromised, you need to act quickly. Scammers can use your information to impersonate you, steal your funds, or commit other types of fraud. Follow these 3 tips:
Report the account to Instagram
Instagram’s report function is easy enough to find:
- Click on the scam profile’s name.
- Click on the Options button (the three dots) next to the profile name.
- Select Report and then Report Account.
- Choose It’s posting content that shouldn’t be on Instagram.
- Select Misleading or possible scam.
All reports are anonymous and you can also block the account and any future accounts this person creates (presumably using the same email address).
Notify your bank
If the scammer accessed information compromising your identity or financial security, your bank needs to know immediately. The bank will then know to monitor your account more closely for potential irregularities indicating fraudulent activity.
Unfortunately, if you’ve used a debit card and sent a scammer money or they stole funds from your account, it’s highly unlikely your bank can get that money back for you. Still, it has happened before so it’s worth a try. If you’ve used a credit card, you have a better chance of getting your money back. Just keep in mind it’s also easier for scammers to carry out financial fraud with your credit card information.
Report the incident to your local fraud or anti-corruption agency
While this may not help you get your money or stolen details back, it will help the agency keep track of criminal behavior online. This also enables them to warn others who may encounter similar scams, and they could potentially help authorities even track the criminals down eventually.
Here are the websites of anti-fraud agencies that may cover your area.
- ➡ US: The Federal Trade Commission
- ➡ UK: Action Fraud
- ➡ AUS: Scamwatch
Sadly, you can’t stop cybercriminals from selling or using your data once it’s stolen, you can only try to mitigate further damage.
Enjoy Swoonworthy Instagram Photos, Avoid Pitfalls
Your Instagram scrolling should be filled with adorable cat videos and amazing travel photos, not stress. Unfortunately, scammers have other ideas. While social media can be a fun place to escape to, it’s always important to remember the lurking dangers — and they don’t even stick to the shadows.
Keep your wits about you, be on the lookout for suspicious behavior, and use security tools to protect yourself. A VPN won’t stop a scammer from tricking you, but it can help mitigate some of the danger from snoopers and stalkers, and prevent other types of attacks. Install CyberGhost VPN and secure your devices right away.
According to research by cloud security company Lookout, fake prize/free giveaway scams are the most common types of scams on Instagram. These scams usually set up fake giveaways or impersonate real brands with giveaways to lure you into clicking on a link or giving up your personal information.
Always add a dose of skepticism to your excitement about getting something for free on social media. Go through my tips on how to spot an Instagram scam to give yourself a better chance at avoiding them. You can also download CyberGhost VPN to add another layer of security to your devices.
Your best course of action depends on the type of scam, but you should immediately report the incident to Instagram. If your account may have been compromised, quickly change your password too. Read my tips on how to respond if you’ve been scammed on Instagram for more helpful advice.
The best approach with scams is always to avoid them as much as you can. This includes taking precautions like installing security software like CyberGhost VPN to encrypt your connection against attackers. Our 256-bit AES VPN encryption is uncrackable and will add a layer of protection to your online traffic and transactions.
Reporting someone on Instagram is easy. Go to the scammer’s profile, click on the Options button next to their name, and select Report. Then follow the steps to select the reason for your report. Beware Instagram deals with a large number of reports on a daily basis, though, and may not respond for a while. You can also block the scammer.
If you want to avoid scammers on Instagram, especially those pesky Cash App scams, you’ll need to stay vigilant. Your number one method to stay safe is to keep an eye out for the common signs you’re dealing with a scammer. Always be on the lookout for email phishing scams trying to steal your Instagram login credentials as well.
You can also tighten your general security measures to protect your devices and information. This includes choosing secure passwords, using multi-factor authentication, and installing security tools like CyberGhost VPN to add an extra layer of security to your device and protect your digital identity.
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