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Biggest Instagram Scams Ever

ZeroFox, a social media security firm, has recently discovered that 80% of scam posts stayed undetected by Instagram’s security algorithms for more than 45 days. According to the Norton Cybercrime Report, one in 10 users falls for a social media scam, so you do the math. It usually takes a scammer two or three months to yield everything they were going to, and shut down the account, disappearing from the Instagram and reappearing under some other name, so the damage that they might do during those 45 days is still considerable.

  • Money Flippers

Money-flipping scams are arguably the oldest trick in the book, but sadly, they still viable and find enough people who are adventurous, trusting or just desperate enough to fall for this. In Instagram, this breed of scam artists looks for their victims among the followers of official accounts of banks and other financial institutions. The scammers claim they know a way to increase the investment tenfold and are willing to show you how. They post gloat-worthy photos, flaunt money, jewelry, and luxury goods to show that what they say is true and lure interested followers into trusting them with their investment or even sharing their bank account details.

According to the aforementioned ZeroFox study, since 2013 there were 4,574 unique instances of such scam on Instagram. It also turned out that military members were frequently targeted as well. ZeroFox algorithm provided data that confirmed anecdotal evidence that has been emerging recently here and there about scam targeting soldiers with USAA accounts.

  • Ugly List 2016

The hottest item on the list and boy does it intrigue! Ugly List con has been wreaking havoc on Instagram since this July. This is how it looks: you receive a notification that one of your friends (or even some random account) has tagged your photo for “Ugly list 2016” – allegedly the list of ugliest people on Instagram. You are frustrated, bewildered, puzzled, and scandalized. You naturally want to figure out, which photo and for what reason has merited such a negative accolade, so you follow the link. And, naturally, your account gets hacked. “They tagged all of my friends in it, and it just said something really mean,” said Brooke Ricardi, a teenager from Northwest DC, one of the many, who received such a message. Naturally, such emotional hook works perfectly. The good news: apparently, no one thinks you’re ugly. You must admit that on the appearance-centric media such as Instagram it does give some consolation. Moreover, no such list ever existed. It was only invented to hack accounts for no good, and spread itself as wide as possible.

  • Free Stuff

Giveaways do exist and their goal is to build up the audience, yield likes, and sometimes raise the fans’ loyalty. However, one must always ask themselves: does it sound too good to be true? Can they really afford to give away 1000 expensive gadgets to the first 1000 of lucky followers? And do the conditions for participation include not simply liking and following, but also clicking some suspicious links? Being prone to risk-taking, teenagers are especially susceptible when it comes to hot items giveaways, such as hoverboards or iPads. 

They are ready to jump through hoops – like, share, click and post everything they are required to. Grown-ups fall for it as well. They think, if they are cautious enough, they risk nothing; however taking such long chances may cost them their account or even the identity theft – on click is enough.

The likes and followers are a desirable commodity in themselves, so no wonder a promise to supply naïve Instagrammers with coveted “hearts” and admirers for free was enough. They dashed ahead to download a sketchy app InstLike that tricked them into typing in their passwords.

  • Email Phishing

Not as used-up as one would think, an old-fashioned email phishing still catches inattentive digital citizens. In 2015, a big phishing scam targeted larger Instagram accounts (celebrities, fan pages, big companies). The scheme was tried and simple – an email, seemingly an official message from the Instagram administration came to the victim’s inbox (the email was initially drawn from the Instagram bio), with something that would inevitably get their attention, say a copyright infringement notice. The “view details” link would redirect the unsuspecting Instagrammer to scammers’ website with the sole goal of obtaining their login and password. The fraud resulted in thousands of accounts being hacked.

One must be very cautious and pay attention to details like the name of a mailbox that sent you the letter: official emails only come from the address or at least end in

  • Accounts For Sale

This list would not be complete without this classic. There is always someone willing to buy a popular account as an investment. Although such practice is ethically nebulous and prohibited by some communities, it isn’t actually illegal. However, if you have decided to acquire such an asset, some obvious red flags must stop you.  For example, the demand to pay via PayPal using “Send Money to Friends or Family” option, which leaves the buyer absolutely unprotected and renders the money impossible to claim back, if an access to the account in question would not be granted. 

But then, again, for teenagers, striving to get popular on Instagram, a chance to acquire an account with 10k, 50k, 100k followers seems like a golden chance and the deal of their lives, especially when the price is as reasonable as a couple of hundred dollars. No wonder parents go as far as employing keyloggers to read their teens text messages and learn what they are up to on social media – young people’s recklessness made holes in family budgets more than once.

You may wonder, how anyone can fall for these scams, and why do they even exist until now? Yet even a good marksman may miss, and who knows, maybe you yourself are not entirely scam-proof. Self-learning algorithms and security bots are good, but awareness and common sense still are the best protection against fraud.

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