The Instagram Money Scam: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself

How to stay safe and what to do if you're a victim

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram
The Ultimate Guide to Instagram
Introduction

One of the more prevalent scams on Instagram is one known as the Instagram money scam. This scam involves being contacted by someone who claims they've discovered a way you can double or triple your money using a newly discovered hack in some system.

What is the Instagram Money Scam?

While this scam isn't exclusive to Instagram, it is more prevalent there.

This scam involves scammers sending a direct message to people who either like or follow official bank or other financial websites. The scammer will explain they've identified a loophole in the financial institution's system that allows them to take a very small investment from you and multiply it many times over.

A conceptual illustration of an Instagram Money Scammer.
Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

How Does the Instagram Money Scam Work?

Scam artists who attempt to defraud Instagram users in this way plan out their approach carefully. Profiles are designed to look authentic, and include pictures of luxury items or piles of cash.

When they make public posts to draw in victims, they usually do so using the maximum number of hashtags allowed by Instagram. This is to attract a large number of interested Instagram users.

A typical Instagram Money Scam involves the following steps:

  1. The scam artist will create an Instagram account that looks authentic. It may appear like an individual person's account, or a company. The profile will usually feature lots of cash, or someone standing near high-priced luxury items like cars.

    Screenshot of a scammer Instagram account
  2. Next, the scammer will create a few posts on Instagram making claiming you can multiply a smaller investment into a massive cash sum. The vehicle of the investment can be anything ranging from Bitcoin and Western Union to PayPal or a banking institution.

    Screenshot of an Instagram money scam post
  3. The scammer will identify people who follow the financial vehicle that's part of the scam. This will usually be the Instagram account of a bank or other large entity with thousands of followers. The scammer will view the follower list and work their way through it, sending scam messages to each follower.

    Screenshot of a scammer looking for followers
  4. Scam artists will craft a convincing conversation to try and draw the Instagram user into their plot. The messages will be direct and personable, and will make it seem as though they're just trying to help people out with a tip that could earn lots of money.

    Screenshot of a sample Instagram money scam message
  5. Once you show interest, the scammer will ask you for your bank account details or some other way to transfer over your "initial investment". Once you do, they'll immediately block your account and disappear with your money.

How Do the Instagram Money Scammers Find Victims?

Scammers seek out a very targeted audience for this scam and focus on people already interested in the investment vehicle they're claiming they've found a loophole for.

They look for users who show the following characteristics:

  • They've liked the account of the target financial institution.
  • They're a follower of the financial institution account.
  • The user has posted to Instagram and used a related hashtag.

It isn't very often that Instagram users are picked at random for this scam. The focus is very targeted so the scammer will have the highest odds that the user will be interested.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in This Scam?

While it's difficult to avoid getting targeted for the Instagram money scam, it's very easy to avoid getting involved.

  • If a financial offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. Don't take part.
  • If a financial institution does have a loophole where you could multiply your money, it's illegal. Avoid getting involved in criminal activity.
  • Don't respond to any stranger messages on Instagram unless you can confirm it's a real person and you have a real need to respond.
  • If you ever do make investments, do so outside of Instagram and on reputable investment websites.

I'm Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

If you've already sent money to one of these scam artists, there are a few things you should do immediately depending on the way that you've sent money.

  1. Immediately file a fraud alert with the financial institution you sent money through. Western Union has a fraud complaint form you can file on their website; PayPal has a Resolution Center where you can report a PayPal account. Most major banks also have fraud centers where you can report the scammer. Call your bank to learn more.

    Screenshot of Western Union fraud complaint form
  2. If you're in the United States, file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Just select File a Complaint on the web page and fill out the complaint form.

    Screenshot of FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
  3. If you're in the United Kingdom, you can report the fraud at the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre known as ActionFraud.

    Screenshot of the UK ActionFraud website
  4. Finally, make sure to report the scammer's profile to Instagram so the fraud can't happen to anyone else. To do this, just select the three dots to the right of the scammer's post, then select Report Inappropriate. To report an individual account, right-click the three red dots, then select Report User.

    Screenshot of reporting a scammer on Instagram
  5. Once you've finished filing all of the fraud reports, all you have to do is work with your financial institution to try and either prevent the payment from processing or receive a reimbursement if possible.

How Do I Avoid Being Targeted For The Instagram Money Scam?

This is one of the hardest scams to avoid being targeted for because scammers look at everyone who has followed or liked a large company or brand account. You can't hide your account from showing up, and you can't prevent people from messaging you.

There are a few precautions you can take if you're serious about reducing the odds of getting contacted by a scammer:

  • If possible, avoid liking or following any of the big brands or companies. Otherwise, at least avoid liking or following the accounts of financial institutions.
  • If you do get contacted by a stranger about a financial opportunity, ignore the message.
  • Never provide your bank account or credit card information to a stranger on Instagram.
  • Never wire money or send Paypal payments to a stranger on Instagram.
  • Avoid making posts on Instagram stating that you're looking for ways to make money.

This type of scam is easily avoidable by being cautious when you come across financial opportunities on Instagram. Avoid clicking any suspicious links in these Instagram posts, and avoid communicating with any of the scammers via Instagram messages.

If you really want to invest in one of these ads, fully research the person or company making the claim through the Better Business Bureau to identify if you're dealing with a scam website. Make sure the person or company you're investing with has a real address and valid contact information. And most importantly, always remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.