Instagram scams and how to avoid them

Close up of phone showing the Instagram app
Apr 24, 2024
9 min read

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. More than 1.3 billion people use Instagram, with the average user spending 30 minutes per day on the service.


With this surge in popularity, scammers have turned to Instagram, hoping to trick social media users into falling for an array of online scams. Luckily, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid the platform altogether. By knowing how to spot the most common Instagram scams, you can stay safe as you scroll and swipe.


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What is an Instagram Scam?

Instagram scams come in different forms. Unfortunately, when you’re the victim of one, life can get difficult fast. The Instagram scammers can:

  • Drive up your credit card purchases

  • Commit identity theft

  • Install dangerous malware on your device

  • Destroy your credit score


To avoid Instagram scams, there are a few key scam warning signs you can look for. For example, Instagram scams start with fake or compromised accounts scammers use to trick you into divulging personal or financial information. 


Watch for accounts with:

  • Bios that seems vague or copied from somewhere else

  • An unusually low number of posts

  • No profile picture 

  • Posts promoting products or services

  • Posts requesting money

  • A high number of people being followed but with very few followers

  • No followers and no one being followed 

10 Common Instagram Scams

Scammers can seem as trustworthy as old friends. But they rely on some pretty common Instagram scam strategies. Take a few minutes to learn them, and you’ll find these scams are easier to detect. 

Romance Scams

When forging new relationships online, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for warning signs that could lead to romance scams.  


Romance scams are as old as love itself. In the modern world of online dating, the term “catfishing,” is often used to describe the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fake online persona.


Instagram romance scammers:

  • Set up a fake account.

  • Use that account to send flirtatious direct messages (DMs). 

  • Ask you for money, assistance, or make other requests.


To avoid an Instagram romance scam, watch out for these types of direct messages. If you receive them, stop and logically assess the situation. These are strangers, after all––strangers who want to establish relationships with you in order to ask for emergency financial assistance and siphon money from your accounts. 

Lottery Scams

The cybercriminals behind lottery scams use social engineering and appeal to our desire for luck and wealth. Scammers understand that almost everyone would enjoy winning free money.


Avoid lottery scams by looking out for Instagram users posing as legitimate members of government agencies. Usually, they’ll claim you’ve already won a lottery cash prize. These lottery scammers will follow up by:

  • Requesting a small advance fee in exchange for your money

  • Asking for personal information, including bank account details and postal addresses.

  • Messages of this type are almost always fake, and it is best to ignore or report the scams. Instagram recommends that you report any strange emails to:

Loan Scams

As is the case with most scams, loan scams begin with offers that seem too good to be true. They often start with a direct message or comment that promises instant loans at incredibly low-interest rates in exchange for small advance fees. After they receive that first “fee,” loan scammers can request more money in exchange for a larger loan. Unfortunately, the victims never receive their loans and scammers can disappear with the money. 

False Investment Scams

Whether they’re marketing cryptocurrency or “sure-thing” Internet startups, false investment scammers promise financial prosperity for an advance fee. On Instagram, scammers may claim they can turn a small amount of your money into a large amount. Again, the appeal is obvious––the promise of quick money. The trouble is, once they receive their fee for this “cash-flipping” scam, false investment scammers also disappear. 

Job Scams

Instagram scammers may even try to take advantage of people who are looking for jobs. 

These fake job scams usually advertise a job listing with high wages and great benefits. A key warning sign: The Instagram job scammers ask for payment or sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers, in exchange for your application. 

Credit Card Fraud

You probably are aware of the traditional version of credit card fraud: scammers use stolen financial information to make unauthorized purchases with your credit card. But Instagram credit card fraud can occur when scammers trick you into thinking you’re buying an item with your card for a dramatically low price, yet you get nothing in return and end up compromising your information. 


Be sure to report such scams to your bank and the authorities. 

Scammers will use Instagram DMs or comments to make incredible offers on popular subscription services––for example, on a movie streaming service you can’t live without. In addition to substantially discounted prices, subscription scams may also throw in seemingly irresistible incentives such as lifetime memberships. Watch for offers that seem too good to be true. They usually are.

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams usually start with the threat of an urgent problem and end with a request to click on a link. 


With Instagram phishing scams, the scammer will typically:

  • Send you a DM warning you of a potential problem with your Instagram account or some other issue requiring immediate attention. 

  • Ask you to click on the link.

  • Lock you out of your account.

  • Steal your data.

  • Blackmail you for money.


Always take a minute to think before reacting to a stranger with an urgent request. Don’t click on links from people you don’t know or that seem suspicious. 


An Instagram giveaway scammer will entice you with the promise of a fabulous prize. The first sign that it’s a scam comes when the scammer asks you to provide your home address. Then, typically they’ll ask you to cover (fake) shipping costs.


These scammers often use copycat Instagram accounts to mimic legitimate giveaways.

Anyone can be fooled by them. So, stay alert. Don’t give out your information or send money to people you don’t know and trust.

Inauthentic Sellers

Inauthentic sellers use fake Instagram accounts to lure you into buying luxury products at steep discounts. Unfortunately, if you receive anything in return for your payment, it’s usually a low-quality knockoff. 


These scammers list fake followers to make them seem legitimate. So, check out their followers. Then look over their account. Avoid them completely if you see these other red flags:

  • Demands for payment before delivery

  • Low-quality images

  • Poor grammar and spelling

  • A recently opened account

You can always check the security of a shopping site for free with F‑Secure Online Shopping Checker.

How to Protect Yourself from Scammers

Now that you know the details of the various Instagram scams, here are some additional precautions you should take to avoid them.


Use Strong Passwords

While it’s easy to use the same password over and over again for your online accounts and profiles, avoid doing so. Protect your Instagram account with an exclusive password. Make sure it incorporates a good mix of numbers, letters, and special characters. You can further enhance your Instagram security by setting up two-factor authentication and using a password manager.

Be Wary of Direct Messages 

Unsolicited DMs are almost always connected to some type of Instagram scam. Don’t respond to them. Report any suspicious messages and block the corresponding accounts. 

Keep Your Instagram Profile Private 

By default, Instagram profiles for people over the age of 16 are set to “public.” So, anyone can see your posts and contact you via direct message. By setting your Instagram account to “private,” you ensure only approved followers see your Instagram activity, and scammers can’t reach you. 

What to Do If You Get Scammed on Instagram


  • Contact Instagram. Just click the “report” option, featured on every page, and follow the instructions. 

  • Keep an eye on your financial accounts and inform your bank if you ever spot any unauthorized purchases. 

  • Scammers can make small transactions before moving on to bigger purchases, so monitor all activity regularly, on all your accounts, and report any suspicious activity. 

  • Regularly update your password. Change your passwords on any other websites or apps, whenever you suspect a problem, and always use unique passwords for all of your online accounts.  

Tip! Create strong and unique passwords for free with F‑Secure Strong Password Generator.


How F‑Secure Can Help You

Instagram scammers can use phishing scams and suspicious links to trick you into sharing personal or financial details or access your mobile device and install malware. The same can happen in other online services just as well, and through email and SMS.

But with the latest innovative security solutions from F‑Secure you can protect your identity and finances from Instagram scammers. 


You can browse and click on links on Instagram more confidently. F‑Secure Total helps you avoid phishing attacks and scams before they inflict damage.  F‑Secure Total also continuously monitors the internet to see that your personal details such as social security and credit card numbers aren’t exposed.  

Get complete and easy-to-use security for all devices.


What kind of scams are on Instagram?

Some of the most common scams on Instagram include phishing scams, romance scams, giveaway scams, Bitcoin Instagram scams, fake job offers, and inauthentic sellers.‍

How do Instagram scams work?

An Instagram scammer may send direct messages or leave comments to get the attention of their victims and trick them into providing cash or personal information.

Why would a scammer want to access my Instagram account?

Scammers can hijack your Instagram account to send spam messages to your followers in an effort to spread their scheme.


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