The 6 Top Instagram Scams of 2020 (and How to Avoid Them)

Don't be duped by these popular Instagram scams

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram
The Ultimate Guide to Instagram

Instagram is fast becoming one of the most popular social networks in the world. But with that popularity comes a number of scams you should be aware of to protect yourself. Here are some of the most common Instagram scams to watch out for.

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Instagram Fake Followers

Screenshot of an Instagram free followers service

Instagram influencers are people who have a massive following on Instagram. They're able to make significant income by promoting different brands or companies in their posts.

Because of this large financial incentives, influencers are very motivated to boost their follower count. Scammers know this, so they've started offering services that can boost your number of followers or likes.

These services often work as advertised, but the consequences could be dire. Reasons this is a bad approach to building your follower count include:

  • Services may pay real people to follow you, but engagement from those followers will be very low.
  • Most of the purchased followers are from foreign, non-English speaking countries.
  • Many services sponsor accounts for the sole purpose of following client's accounts, but these "fake" accounts rarely engage or use Instagram for any other purpose.
  • Instagram is cracking down on these fake accounts, and if it's discovered you've purchased fake followers, your own account could be at risk.

How to protect yourself: Never make use of services promising a quick boost of followers. Building a following on Instagram takes work.

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Instagram Scammer Pictures

Image of a catfishing message on Instagram

 Tero Vesalainen\Getty Images

Just like on many other social networks, scammers try to take advantage of victims by creating fake accounts with fake profile pictures. The purpose of these accounts is to make contact with other Instagram users and try to strike up a romantic relationship.

The hope is that by using a fake attractive profile picture, they'll entice other Instagram users to respond.

If you suspect you've been contacted by an account with a fake photo, you can attempt to verify Instagram scammer pictures are fake in a few ways.

  • Perform a reverse image search on the profile photo. Usually scammers steal pictures of real models to use on their Instagram profile.
  • If the scammer has emailed you, Google the email address to see if other Instagram users have complained.
  • Use Social Catfish to reverse search their email, phone number, Instagram user name, or image.

How to protect yourself: While it may be flattering to be flirted with by an attractive person, never trust any new romantic interest on Instagram until you've confirmed the person is real.

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Fake Instagram DMs

Screenshot of creating fake Instagram DMs

Because posting funny Instagram chats has gone viral in the past, there are many services out there that help people generate fake Instagram DMs.

The purpose of this is to claim the chat was real to try and make it go viral. People also often use fake Instagram chats to prank family and friends.

How to protect yourself: The best thing to do when you come across photos of outrageous chat conversations is to ignore them. Engaging with such posts just encourages scammers to continue the practice.

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Instagram Money Scams

Screenshot of an Instagram instant money scam

Wherever there are a lot of people on a social media platform, you find scammers trying to convince people they can make a lot of money overnight. Instagram is no exception.

One of the most recent versions of an Instagram money scam is offering Instagram users quick money by investing a very small sum. The promise is there's a hack in some system, like Western Union, that scammers can use to triple or quadruple the sum. Once you send the scammers your hard earned cash, you'll never see it again.

Other Instagram money scams include investing in events or products that don't exist, or even taking on work for a fictitious company or individual but having to pay fees to participate.

How to protect yourself: The bottom line to avoid these scams is to follow the golden rule. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Never send your hard earned money to any of these scammers.

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Instagram Email Scams

Picture of a login page with a fish hook

 pressureUA\Getty Images

Scammers use phishing attacks to trick users of almost every social media platform, including Instagram.

The way these scams work is the scammer will send an email claiming your Instagram account is at risk and you need to log in to protect your account. The email will provide you with a link that takes you to a fake Instagram login page designed to look authentic.

Once you type in your login details, the scam artist has your password and can hijack your Instagram account.

Versions of Instagram email scams include:

  • Claiming there has been fraudulent login attempts to your Instagram account.
  • Warning that someone signed up to Instagram using your email address.
  • A fake Instagram account password reset confirmation email.
  • A fake notification message that your account violated copyright and will be deleted if you don't sign in to confirm.

How to protect yourself: Never interact with your Instagram account through any emails you receive. Always open the Instagram account directly on your browser, log in, and check for any messages from Instagram there. If there are none, the email was a phishing attempt.

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Instagram Ad Scams

Screenshot of an Instagram deal ad

With almost any social media with a very large audience, there are always companies looking to take advantage. When it comes to ads on Instagram, there are quite a few misleading or completely false ads to be found.

At best, Instagram ad scams include low quality products advertised with misleading photos. At worse, the scams draw in people to send payments, but don't send any product in return.

The following are some of the most common Instagram ad scams.

  • Drop ship companies that sell cheap Chinese products, but use photos of high-end lookalike products.
  • Allegedly high-price ticket items for a very cheap price. You end up receiving knock-off products from China.
  • Advertising brand named products, but shipping fake counterfeits.
  • Fake companies that aren't selling any products at all, and just take customer's money and run.

Instagram is doing its best to combat Instagram ad scams, but you'll still see them crop up every now and then.

How to protect yourself: If it seems too good to be true, it is. Stick to purchasing products from known brands or companies.