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Most common Instagram scams and how to avoid them

June 2020 by NordVPN

Security experts warn Instagram users about the increasing number of scams on the social media platform. With its main focus on vivid imagery, quality content, and ever-growing popularity, Instagram has made it easy for cybercriminals to impersonate genuine, well-intentioned people online.

The prime targets of online scams are those who are inexperienced in cybersecurity. This generally manifests itself in targeting platforms with a younger audience, whom scammers consider more naive. According to recent data, 30% of global Instagram audiences are aged between 18 and 24 years, and 35% between 25 and 34 years. Overall, a staggering 72% of teens use Instagram.

Interestingly, Instagram is also preferred by women. According to statistics, 56.3% of Instagram users are female, and 43.7% are male.

When it comes to scamming, cybercriminals have devised some well-planned schemes. Instagram has classified some of the most common types of scams:

Romance scams. These scammers will engage in online relationships and attempt to earn the victim’s trust. Once they have it, they will claim they need money for visas, flights, or other travel expenses.

Lottery or giveaway scams. Lottery scammers will impersonate businesses or other trusted accounts and inform you that you’ve won some sort of competition or a giveaway, which you might not have even entered. In exchange for the prize, the scammer will ask you for a small “admin”, “handling” or “shipping” fee. They might also ask for your personal information and use it for other illegitimate purposes.

Loan scams. These scammers will offer users loans at a great interest rate or low fee. However, once the initial payment has been made, they will most likely disappear.

False investment scams. These will encourage you to invest into dodgy schemes, such as "cash flipping", Ponzi or "get rich quick". Once the victim makes the payment, the scammers will disappear together with the money.

Job scams. Job scammers will post fake job offers in order to attempt to gain your personal information (such as ID number, address, etc.).

Credit Card Fraud. Scammers use stolen financial information to make purchases online or lure people into buying cheap goods and services in order to steal the credentials.

Paid Subscription Services. Scammers will offer to sell you paid subscription services or lifetime access to them for a one-time payment.

Phishing Scam. Phishing is when someone tries to get access to your Instagram account by sending you a suspicious message or link that asks for your personal information. If they get into your account, a scammer may have access to things like your phone number or email address. They may also change your password to lock you out of your account.

Fake influencer sponsors. These scammers will pretend to be a real brand by offering influencers an advertising deal. This way, they are trying to get victims’ banking details.

Although the sheer amount of different scams might seem overwhelming, security experts suggest that if properly protected, your account should be safe from cybercriminals. Ruby Gonzalez, Head of Communications at NordVPN, shares some of the most important security tips for social media:

Use a strong password

Make sure you use a unique password which has never been affected by any security breaches. “Password generators, such as NordPass, are great tools to help you generate a strong password as well as check if it has ever been exposed,” says Ruby Gonzalez , Head of Communications at NordVPN.

Don’t overshare

Provide minimal personal information and don’t overshare on social media. The less information you give away, the less likely it is to get stolen.

Stay vigilant

It’s always good to remain doubtful on social media. If a user account looks suspicious and fake, trust your gut and don’t interact with it. If the link seems dodgy, avoid clicking on it. Also, make sure you don’t give out your personal information on any suspicious websites. In addition, if an offer like a lottery, job, or giveaway sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers always try to lure people in by offering things that are hard to resist.

Set your account to private

In many scams, the attacker will attempt to start a relationship with you and will do that by following your account. Setting your account to private will give you more control over who can follow you and who can see your personal information.

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