13 common Instagram scams to know

Anton P. | March 15, 2023

Instagram scams are attempts to steal users’ personal information or money. Fake accounts send messages containing suspicious links, get-rich-quick schemes, or other offers.  

Social media users should know the fraud strategies targeting Instagram users. Let’s discuss the types of Instagram scams users encounter on this platform. 

Instagram scams use private messages and posts to trick users.

What Instagram scams are 

Instagram scams are after the millions of users using this popular social media platform. It could attract users with posts that are too good to be true, like special investment opportunities. So, Instagram fraud usually happens in three ways: 

  1. Criminals impersonate owners of hacked accounts and distribute Instagram scams on their behalf. 
  2. Private messages promoting Instagram scams reach unsuspecting users. 
  3. Public posts or comments could set a bait for users to message fraudsters or click on links. 

Our previous research indicates that Instagram users are the most likely to have their accounts hacked. Remember to be cautious of direct messages, investment opportunities, and shared links.

13 Instagram scams to watch out for 

Instagram scams can take various forms, exploiting users’ emotions or unawareness of risks. For instance, peer-to-peer payment apps are only for exchanging money between trusted entities. So, scammers choose such platforms due to their weaker buyer protection. 

  1. Investment scams 

Instagram scams can promote various fake investment opportunities. Fraudsters likely promote them as risk-free deals. 

In pig butchering scams, criminals can establish relationships with their victims. Then, they slowly introduce the idea of investing, likely in crypto. 

Possible signs of investment scams on Instagram: 

  • You receive a message from an unknown account very suddenly. 
  • The person claims to be looking for friends or other crypto enthusiasts. 
  • Fraudsters can be friendly, pushing targets to reveal a lot about their personal lives.
  • Scammers likely send screenshots of their previous investments, encouraging you to invest, too.

Investment scams on Instagram and other social media platforms have already cost users millions. Our research shows that fraudsters contact their victims via social media platforms. 

  1. Cash App scams 

Instagram scams likely involve Cash App or Zelle scams. These P2P payment platforms are perfectly safe, but they have limits. For instance, if you make willing money transfers to scammers, you have limited refund options.

Usually, Cash App or Zelle scams follow similar patterns: 

  • Scammers insist that victims make payments via Cash App or Zelle, claiming bank account issues. 
  • Fraudsters can tempt users with the promise of huge payouts if they pay relatively small initial fees. 
  • Strangers might ask for your Cash App details and send fake screenshots of pending transactions. In exchange, they could require money for fees. 
  1. Sugar daddy scams 

Instagram scams like fake sugar daddy proposals usually happen via private messages. 

A fake account sends the victim an offer to take care of their financial needs in exchange for companionship. However, the scammers’ goals are far from finding sugar babies: 

  • Fake sugar daddies could ask for sensitive information, revealing photos, or other favors. Then, they could use those details to blackmail victims.
  • They could also send fake payment screenshots, claiming to need a small portion returned. However, after victims send some of it, the scammers refund the payment. 
  1. Do me a favor scams

Do me a favor scams involve scammers impersonating people or businesses and asking victims for help. Usually, it happens after accounts get hacked and criminals send private messages to contacts. 

Users have reported scammers asking for gift cards or assistance to become online influencer ambassadors. 

  1. Influencer scams 

Instagram scams could involve fake influencers trying to sell goods or offer discounts. However, you should notice certain red flags that a proclaimed influencer is not trustworthy: 

  • Most followers seem fake, with their profiles having no posts or images.
  • The influencer barely posts unique content. Instead, most of their profile consists of reposts.
  • A low engagement rate can indicate that the account is fake.
  • Unknown accounts message you using the vanish mode to hide their messages.
  1. Romance scams 

Romance scams on Instagram happen when scammers try to engage in romantic relationships with their victims. 

They could send private messages, claiming they find the target handsome and would like to chat. Unfortunately, romance scams are highly dangerous, and Americans lost nearly $350 million in 2021. 

Here are recommendations for recognizing romance scams on Instagram or other platforms: 

  • The person messages you suddenly and quickly shows interest in your life. 
  • They are eager to chat and might start sharing personal stories or intimate images. 
  • Chatting is likely the main form of communication. They might repeatedly refuse video calls. 
  • While the person messages you on Instagram, they quickly recommend switching to another app. They prefer communication via more private messaging apps. 
  • Most romance scams end with scammers asking for money or personal information like bank details.
  1. Crypto scams

Instagram scams involving crypto frequently involve fake offers for free Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies. 

However, users need to pay initial fees to get the coins. After the payments reach scammers, they disappear. 

Scammers could also bait users with insider tips or other crypto schemes.

  1. Fake job offers

Some Instagram scams can also approach users with fake job offers or get-rich opportunities. Here are some red flags that the proposal aims to trick you:

  • Instagram is not an appropriate place for recruiters to contact potential candidates. 
  • Recruiters should not need payments for applying to jobs. 
  • Offers that seem too good to be true are usually nothing but scams. 
  • Be careful of links added to personal messages, and double-check them before clicking.
  • If recruiters claim to be from highly respectable companies, try to find proof of this association.
  1. Sextortion scams 

Instagram scams could involve sextortion when criminals coerce victims into exchanging intimate photos. Then, they threaten users to expose such images online if they do not pay a ransom. 

A story from Forbes showcases the danger of sextortion. An Instagram sextortionist managed to receive intimate photos from 30 boys. 

  1. Giveaway scams 

Many Instagram scams involve posts or private messages promoting fake giveaways. It could offer free gift cards, lotteries, etc. 

The goal might be to steal users’ personal information or require initial payments to transfer winning funds. So, ignore private messages claiming you have won incredible prizes.

  1. Fake items for sale

Instagram prohibits selling counterfeit items via its platform. Fake products are copies of products trademarked by other companies. In other cases, they also are items imitating genuine products. 

  1. Loan scams

Instagram scams involving loans happen when fraudsters post comments or leave messages that offer instant loans. 

The scam promises low interest rates, making it an attractive offer. Furthermore, advance fees will be smaller than expected. However, after users make the initial payments, scammers disappear, leaving victims out of funds. 

  1. Fake paid subscription offers 

Another Instagram scam can bait users with lower prices for popular paid subscription services. In other cases, fraudsters will allegedly offer lifetime access for a relatively small payment. 

Things to remember about Instagram scams 

Instagram scams come after users’ funds, data, and accounts. Thus, recognizing a potential scammer is crucial. Use the following tips to guarantee a safer experience on Instagram or another social media platform:

  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for your Instagram account. 
  • Never share passwords, bank information, or other personal details with strangers. 
  • Making your Instagram account private is best to ward off scammers potentially.
  • Job offers shouldn’t be on Instagram, especially those requiring fees for applying.
  • Report suspicious activity from accounts. 
  • Be wary of messages requiring personal details, account access, to click on a link, or download files. 
  • Always check URL safety before clicking on a link. 
  • The golden rule is not to trust strangers online, even if they approach you with seemingly incredible offers.
  • If you lose access to your Instagram account, report the incident and inform your followers and friends.

Instagram scams could have dire consequences, like identity theft, unauthorized access, doxxing, or money losses.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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