12 Common Instagram Scams and How To Spot Them

Instagram scams can look and feel convincing, but if you know what to look for you can avoid becoming the next victim.
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Instagram scams come in a variety of forms, from fake celebrity accounts to products and services that are never delivered. Whether the account is trying to get your personal or financial information or just scam you out of money, it’s important to safeguard yourself from Instagram scammers.

There are a variety of ways to protect yourself from the most common Instagram scams. Identity theft protection services, ad blockers, tracker blockers, and virtual private networks (VPNs) all go a long way to increase your security. You should also become familiar with spammy and scammy tactics and double-check anything before purchasing. Remember: Something that seems too good to be true is probably just a scam. We have plenty of tips and information on common Instagram scams and how to avoid them.

In this article
12 common Instagram scams to watch out for
How do you know if a seller is legit on Instagram?
How to boost your cybersecurity on Instagram
What to do if someone scams you on Instagram
Instagram scams FAQs
Bottom line

12 common Instagram scams to watch out for

Don’t feel bad if you’ve been the victim of an Instagram scam. There are a lot of fake accounts promising free giveaways and information. There are also people who pretend to work for celebrities or corporations just to get your personal information.

The internet is still the Wild West in some spots, so making sure you double-check and stay skeptical can save you from becoming a victim of a social media scam. Common Instagram scams can be easy to spot once you know the signs. Let’s get into it and learn about what to avoid.

1. Phishing scams

Phishing scams are everywhere and can look completely different. A funny meme telling you your elf name can be a clever attempt at gaining password hints. A direct message announcing you’ve won a contest you entered or that a celebrity you follow has noticed your comments may also be out for your data.

Make sure any communication you receive is from a verified account. You can double-check the validity of accounts by looking at how long they’ve been active, if there are comments on their posts, and if the account is open to the public (closed accounts are too suspicious). You can also filter your settings to disallow messages from accounts you don’t follow. While the blue checkmark is a nice way to identify verified accounts, it’s not always a failsafe.

2. Fake influencer accounts

Influencers make money online by recommending or featuring a brand's products in social media posts, becoming a brand ambassador for a set period of time, entering into an affiliate agreement with a brand, and other strategies. While this is a completely legitimate business model, there are others out there who don’t want to do the work.

Fake influencers can try to make partnership deals with small businesses and creators or send you to scam websites for products that don’t exist (but still take your money). Most of their followers are likely bots or purchased followers to make them look much more popular and legitimate.

You can spot these scam accounts by checking out their quality. If they have tons of followers but very low post engagement, it’s likely they have bots and fake followers.

3. Money flipping scams

Money flipping online is basically the same idea as the pyramid schemes of old. Someone promises to take your money and turn it into more money through some kind of business model. Whether they want you to invest in a new business or promise to send you money by just messaging them, there’s never any additional cash, and you’ll be out what you paid.

Some messages come from individuals, while others come from places that look legit. After you send them money, they suddenly block you or disable their Instagram account, and you never hear from them again. There’s no such thing as easy money, so ignore any comments or requests every single time to keep yourself safe.

4. Sponsorship scams

Building your career as an influencer can be freeing and financially rewarding. Sponsorships and brand deals are a huge source of revenue for influencers, but there are scammers out there taking advantage of this type of revenue stream.

And scams aren't just geared toward influencers, either. If you’ve ever received direct messages from a brand that “saw your IG and thought you’d be a great model/spokesperson” for their product, it’s likely a scam. Whether you’re a beginner in the influencer space or an individual who was approached by a brand, make sure you check out the business on Trustpilot, Reddit, or the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for legitimacy.

5. Giveaway scams

Who hasn’t entered at least one giveaway in their lifetime? Giveaway scammers will either use a fake giveaway to get information (or money) or scroll the #Giveaway posts to find people who have entered legitimate contests. They’ll then message you letting you know you won and ask for information or for you to click a link. They may even ask you to pay shipping and handling (or some other made-up reason) to receive the gift.

If you’ve entered a chance to win something, only communicate with the verified account where the original post is located. Also, be wary of accounts only doing giveaways or new accounts that are offering a giveaway.

6. Fake job listings

We find this one to be particularly heinous. The economy is rough right now, and the job market is tight, so stumbling across what you think might be a great employment opportunity just to get scammed is demoralizing.

The Instagram scammer will post a position that’s either too good to be true or asks you to pay a fee to apply. Then, you’ll either get hacked because you shared too much personal information or never see any movement in the interview process because the entire thing was a hoax. Additionally, you might be asked to provide your Social Security number (SSN), making it particularly lucrative for identity thieves.

Never give out your SSN, even on a legitimate job application. Also, make sure to double-check any potential employers on sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or Trustpilot for legitimacy.

7. Romance scams

Romance scams aren’t new or exclusive to the internet, but they’re rife on social media. Essentially, the scammer preys on lonely people by offering companionship but then slowly starts to extort money from the victim. They may say they need it for a plane ticket or visa to come visit the victim or that a major medical issue has come up and they need money for treatment.

This is a long con that can take weeks or months to manifest before the scammer asks for money. There’s no harm in trying to meet someone romantically on the internet, but be wary if they start asking for money.

8. Fake products

There are a variety of fake product scams on Instagram. Some may be in the form of advertisements for products. The ad will redirect you to a suspicious website where you pay and never receive the product.

Another fake product scam might be where the merchant tries to sell you a service, like a digital download or online class. Once you’ve purchased it, there will be no download and no way to get your money back. Many of these scam sites won’t accept payment services like PayPal or Afterpay and will only let you pay via credit card. If the price is too good to be true and the site looks sketchy, it’s best to just avoid it entirely.

9. Music promotion scams

Social media changed the game for a lot of musicians. If you’re an emerging musician, you don’t have to deal with gatekeeping by industry executives — instead, you can reach out to audiences via your own platform. This might be hard given social media algorithms, so fake music promotion accounts have popped up all over social media.

While these accounts do have a lot of followers, most of them are bots. They promise to boost your music and may even show you how many views you have. Unfortunately, almost all of the views are automated, and your music doesn’t reach real people who will become fans.

These accounts reach out via comments and DMs and will charge you for a very convincing-looking lie. Instead, look for free tutorials or classes on how to boost your online presence and use social media algorithm strategies to organically grow your following.

10. Blackmail

Blackmail is as old as humanity, but it got a modern revamp when internet usage became commonplace. Social media blackmail schemes can take a long time to materialize if they’re legitimate. It could start with a phishing attempt where a hacker gains access to your device. They might collect videos, pictures, or conversations you had, then threaten to post them online if you don’t pay.

It could also be a hoax where the person simply sends a threatening message hoping you’ll be scared into ponying up a fee. Either way, you should take screenshots of the messages and report the account to Instagram, then reach out to your local police department and file a complaint.

11. Crypto scams

Many people still aren’t sure how crypto works. It looks like magical internet money that can make you rich or be a huge payout for ransomware criminals. Some crypto coins are legitimate (there are over 9,000 legitimate crypto coins as of 2023). Many of those coins sell for a nominal fee.

You may understand that the market can fluctuate as people buy and sell these coins. Unlike the Dogecoin boom of 2020, however, there isn't a quick return on most crypto investments. Anyone on Instagram promising a large, quick return is likely trying to scam you. If you really want to get into crypto, you have to study it just like the stock market. It can be a worthwhile investment, but not one that will provide a 1,000% return in three hours.

12. Paid subscription hoaxes

If you want to learn Adobe Photoshop or stream YouTube TV, you may be deterred by the monthly subscription fee. Some scammers will say they’ll offer a lifetime subscription to the service for a single fee. You may even be redirected to a legitimate-looking site.

That site may not be legitimate, however, because software exists that enables anyone to copy a website verbatim, which can then be used for scams. Once you fall victim to this hoax, you’re left without a subscription and no way to retrieve your stolen funds.

How do you know if a seller is legit on Instagram?

You can tell a legit seller on Instagram by using a few different methods to check their validity. First, see if the seller has a blue checkmark by their name. Unlike X (formerly Twitter), accounts on IG still need to be verified through proof rather than just paying for verification.

You’ll also want to look at the website you’re directed to for purchase. Are there options to pay with services like PayPal?

You should also check out the engagement of the account. If there’s a high follower count but low engagement, it’s likely the followers are all bots. If the account is fairly new and has low-quality content, there’s also a likelihood that it’s a spam account.

Finally, you’ll want to pay attention to the behavior of the seller. If they’re acting strange or they want you to make payment off the platform, it’s best to just walk away from the transaction. Many scammers will try to get you to close the deal quickly. If they threaten that the deal will go away if you don’t act now or if they tell you they have a ton of other people interested, it’s a tactic to get you to commit. Legitimate sellers won’t mind if you take a bit of time to think it over.

How to boost your cybersecurity on Instagram

Some scammers are extremely sophisticated in their hoaxes, which means you shouldn’t feel bad if you do get scammed. You can reduce your chances, however, by employing some common sense tactics, cybersecurity tools, and scam education. By using all of these together, you’ll greatly reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim.

Don’t click suspicious links

Think of links like candy — you probably shouldn't take it from someone you don't know. You should always employ this precaution when dealing with links on the internet. Make sure you check out the Instagram account thoroughly, read the comments sections of the posts, and check out the engagement. If anything looks off, or the person contacting you is overly eager, it’s better to avoid clicking the link.

Enable two-factor authentication

If you enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on all eligible online accounts, social media or others, you can help protect yourself from credential theft. If someone engages in a phishing attempt, sends a fake link, or even tries to scam your credentials, 2FA will help protect that account.

Invest in identity theft protection

It’s possible to monitor your credit information, financial accounts, and other personal information on your own, but the time and effort needed to be vigilant is exhausting. Identity theft protection services are an easy, hassle-free way to protect your identity. Not only can they monitor all three credit bureaus, but they’ll notify you of anything suspicious, ranging from social media account takeovers to home title theft and everything in between.

For the best identity theft protection service, we recommend LifeLock, Aura, and Identity Guard. LifeLock by Norton can be combined with other cybersecurity tools like antivirus. Aura is powered by AI and offers parental controls to keep kids safe. And Identity Guard has plans starting low enough to fit any budget.

Up to 37% off first year when paid annually
4.9
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On LifeLock's website
LifeLock
  • Top-rated identity theft protection service
  • Provides up to $3 million in coverage
  • Multiple monitoring features including dark web, home title, and social media monitoring
  • Customer support experience is lacking

Beware of sharing personal info

It’s surprising how many people freely give away their personal information online. If you want to protect yourself from scams, consider sharing less and being more guarded overall with what you tell the internet.

Also, make sure you don’t volunteer additional information to anyone soliciting you over Instagram or other social media apps. Instagram’s parent company, Meta, which also owns Facebook and WhatsApp, has been criticized by the Federal Trade Commission and federal government for not doing enough to protect users from scams. It’s up to you to protect your information.

Avoid shopping on social media platforms

We know it’s easy to see an ad for something on Instagram and just click to buy it. TikTok Shop is equally as popular, with some on the platform claiming that the products can be “life-changing.”

If you really think a product will work for you, try looking for it on its own legitimate, verified website or a reputable online retailer like Amazon. Make sure there are protections in place with payment options like PayPal, AfterPay, Klarna, or Affirm.

What to do if someone scams you on Instagram

There are several steps you should take if you find you’ve been scammed on Instagram. While not all of these will apply to every situation, the more reporting we all do regarding internet scams, the better the resolution chances will be for everyone.

  • Report a post or profile to Instagram.
  • Report a message to Instagram.
  • Contact your financial institution and alert them about the fraudulent transaction.
  • File a police report if there was theft or blackmail involved.
  • Use your identity theft protection software to freeze or put a hold on your credit.
  • File a report with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3) division of the FBI.
  • File a report with IdentityTheft.gov if your personal information has been compromised.
  • Change all your passwords.
  • Block any spammy or scammy accounts.
  • Install and use an ad and tracker blocker to keep yourself from being spied on and marked for targeted ads.
  • Change your social media security settings.

Instagram scams FAQs


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Why are there so many scam Instagram accounts?

Meta, Instagram’s parent company, isn’t great about regulating bots and spammers to keep Instagram users safe. Because of this poor business practice, Meta doesn’t police its social media services well for criminal activity, false information, or scammers.

You’ll need to learn how to prevent identity theft online as well as what to look for to avoid being scammed. It’s up to individuals to be diligent about their own cybersecurity and safety while using these services.


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How do I know if I’m talking to a scammer?

You can tell you’re talking with a scammer if their behavior is unusual. People trying to get too much information from you, make a quick sale, or pour their hearts out to a complete stranger very quickly after meeting all have the likelihood of being scammers.

There are also clues in the construction of speech. If you see poor spelling or grammatical errors, the account may be a hoax. You’ll also want to analyze what the person is promising you. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, and you should run, not walk, away from it.

Remember, it’s ok to take your time and think through a purchase or deal before committing to it. If the person on the other end is trying to speed up the transaction, protect yourself by severing contact and blocking them.


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Can people steal your information from Instagram?

The short answer is yes, people can steal your information from Instagram. It is a bit more complicated, considering a lot of theft is done via malware or social engineering scams. This means that you would have to click or download something or offer up your information to a catfish. Third-party apps and compromised websites could also leave you open to information theft, but using good antivirus software and safety measures can help keep you safe.

Bottom line

Whether you’re considering buying a product offered at a steep discount or trying to make a brand deal, you have to scrutinize every interaction when on Instagram. The internet has opened up commerce and artistic opportunities, but it’s also left that door wide open for those looking to defraud others out of their time, money, and identities.

Using cybersecurity tools like ad and tracker blockers and identity theft protection services can help keep you safe online. Educating yourself about scams and cybercriminal activities like phishing can increase your online safety in the areas that security software can’t protect. Just remember, it’s always better to walk away from a deal than it is to end up the victim of someone else’s scam.

4.9
Editorial Rating
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On Aura Identity Theft's website
Aura Identity Theft
  • Excellent identity theft protection service
  • Includes a password manager and VPN
  • Robust tools for children’s security
  • Provides VantageScore and not FICO score updates

Author Details
Mary lives in Los Angeles and has been a cybersecurity writer for over five years. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, her career in online security began in sales and content creation for a private cybersecurity firm.