Protect Yourself Against Instagram Scams

instagramAs we become increasingly aware of scammers and their tricks, their methods have evolved. While there are plenty of emails promising wealth and inheritance, the likelihood of such emails to bypass the spam folder and end up in our inbox is low. And so, scammers have adapted their techniques, shifting the target from email to social media- the newer the platform, the better.

All too often we see friends and family, if not ourselves, sharing status updates, Instagram pictures or tweets with too good to be true offers. Perhaps they are giving away free airline tickets or an iPad. Often, we may suspect that the offer is not real, yet we feel compelled to share it anyway, “just in case.”

While Facebook and Twitter have put measures in place to prevent these types of scams, such as options to report spam and advertising requirements, other social media sites have lower access thresholds. Because of this, many scammers have taken direct aim at Instagram.

With a simple share, scammers can easily have access to your personal information and location. Here are a few things to look for in order to help you stay away from a potential social media scam and protect yourself and information.


Often, scammers rely on an already established brand name. Since many established companies and corporations already have a social media presence on most all platforms, any scammer will need to alter the name a bit in order to pass themselves off as that company. Look at the name. If it has anything added or didn’t come from the company’s primary account, it is likely a scam.

Rarely, if ever, do companies create a special account just for promotions and giveaways. When establishing a business on a social network site, it is often a challenge to build a presence and reputation. Followers are valued and gaining them is not easy, so it’s doubtful that a company would start that process over in the name of one singular promotion.


Beyond username, take a look at pictures on the account. Again, a lot of time and consideration goes into building a social media presence. Legitimate businesses will have several pictures on their Instagram account. The presence of only one or two pictures for the sake of one promotion should raise red flags.

Contest Rules

Businesses are accustomed to the legal requirements surrounding promotional giveaways and contests. Any account offering a promotion should have the contest rules and regulations clearly accessible and stated. A credible business will not post a contest or giveaway without covering the fine print for business liability purposes.

Personal Information

If you are asked to share your personal information along with the picture in order to become eligible for the product or promotion, it is likely a scam. A legitimate business is not going to require that you also provide your personal information, such as a password, in order to qualify for a contest on social media.

External Links

Sometimes scammers offering promotional contests on Instagram, or other social media sites, will include a shortened URL. Once clicked on, you’re often directed to a site that will attempt to install malware or spyware.  It is important to be wary of any outside links if you come across one of these contests or promotions on Instagram.

Take Action

With a little information you can easily protect yourself against online scammers on Instagram. While a simple share may seem harmless, your information is valuable, as is others’.

If you see one of these scammers, take action right away. Notify the powers that be at Instagram of the faulty user. If you accidentally became a victim, take the necessary steps to protect yourself from potential harm.

  • This article has tips on how to report an internet scam. The severity of the fraud will determine which action you take when you report an internet scam.
  • Change your social network account passwords.
  • If necessary, notify your friends and followers of any potential harm that may come their way.

Take just a few minutes to protect yourself and other users. Then, you can get back to posting your latest selfie or pictures of your latest meal! 

Have you ever fallen for a scam on social media or shared a promotional post “just in case”? 

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Kelly Sanders is a consumer advocate specializing in online scams. Through her employer, she works to inform others about the potential dangers of internet fraud and empowers victims to fight back. 

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