Hacked Instagram accounts are scamming users

Emma McGowan 9 Jun 2022

Getting scammed is never fun — and getting hacked on Instagram is an especially public way to get scammed. Here's how to stay safe.

Have a bunch of your friends on Instagram suddenly gotten really into crypto investing? I know mine have! It seems like everyone is out there getting rich quick — and they want us to join them.

Just kidding! You already know that those crypto investment posts and Stories on Instagram are actually scammers — we kind of gave it away in the title. But they must be having at least some success or else they wouldn’t be so prolific right now. So let’s take a look at this latest trend in Instagram scams, including how to avoid getting scammed and what to do if they gotcha already.

Some recent Instagram crypto scams to look out for

Instagram crypto scams fall under the more general social media “hacks” (it’s really phishing, but we've already examined them in detail in a previous piece, so I’ll spare you the lecture this time) that are trending across the internet. Here are some of the latest and greatest ways that scammers are trying to get their hands on your hard-earned cash.

Crypto ransom lockouts 

One Instagram crypto scam is a lockout, which is when a cyber criminal gets control of your profile and demands a ransom in the form of cryptocurrency if you want to get it back. They usually get control through phishing, like by sending a link from another hacked account asking for help. When you click on that link, they get your info, take over your account, and then make the demand.

Crypto “investment” scams

Another common Instagram crypto scam is when someone offers to help you with investing in cryptocurrency. This scam takes advantage of the fact that most people don’t know much about crypto outside of the news articles that talk breathlessly about how much money early investors make.

These scammers pose as “Bitcoin mentors” offering to “teach” you how to make investments, even going so far as to helping you set up a wallet and walking you through the investment. Then they either ask for an exorbitant “tax fee” to withdraw the money or they simply disappear with your cryptocurrency. 

Get rich quick scams

You’ve probably seen a friend’s story talk about getting rich quick on crypto all of a sudden. This might be the sloppiest of this kind of scam, similar to those weird Ray-Ban sale hacks that were happening a few years ago. They’re phishing for the slowest target, so don’t be that phish.

Hostage videos

Another recent trend is scammers forcing their victims to create videos where they (falsely) talk about how much money they’ve made in order to trick other people into investing as well. The scammer promises to give profile control back to the victim if they make a video but then spams all of their friends — and their Stories — with it.

How to avoid getting scammed on Instagram

There are some straightforward tips for avoiding getting scammed on Instagram that really apply to most scams. Here’s what to do if you want to avoid being that friend. 

Never click on a link (really — NEVER)

Really, really, really: Never click on a link. If someone sends you a link in your DMs — or even has one in their Stories that looks sketchy — just don’t click it! Those links are the number one way scammers steal your personal information and/or install malware on your devices. So just avoid that whole mess altogether and never click on a link.

Consider all unsolicited messages to be sketchy

If someone reaches out to you that you haven’t heard from in a long time — or never heard from — give it the side eye. As a best practice, assume all unsolicited messages are scams until proven otherwise. Ask your friend something only they would know if you want to test whether or not they are who they say they are. And don’t ever respond to a request for “help” from someone you don’t actually know in person. I’m sorry to say, but that’s for sure a scam.

Turn on 2FA

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is available for Instagram and it’s an excellent way to stay protected against Instagram scams. You can set it up via SMS text so that you get a code that you have to enter every time you try to sign in. This prevents anyone who has gotten your login info — maybe from you clicking on a link that you shouldn’t have — from actually gaining access to your account.

Run a good antivirus software

Good antivirus software will protect you from a whole range of attacks, including Instagram scams. So get one yesterday and keep it running to stay protected.

What to do if you’ve been scammed on Instagram

If you’ve been scammed on Instagram, don’t be ashamed: It could happen to pretty much anyone. Scammers’ whole job is scammin’, so if you fall for it, you’re not alone. Here’s what to do if you’ve been scammed on Instagram.

Recover your account

The first thing you’re going to need to do is recover your account. Luckily, Instagram has a whole account recovery process for people who think they’ve been hacked. It’s a bit of a pain in the neck, but it’s worth it.

Change your password 

Once you’ve regained control of your account — or even if you’ve never lost control of it, but have given away sensitive information to the scammer — change your password. Use a unique password or pass phrase that’s hard to guess and use a password manager to keep track of it. That way you don’t have to worry about remembering everything, which is pretty much impossible in this day and age of 275456789 passwords.

Document the scam

Take any screenshots of messages, the scammer’s profile, anything that shows who they are and what they’ve done. That information might help Instagram track them down and prevent them from scamming other people. If you want to take it a step further, you can actually report the account to Instagram.

Block the scammer

Now that everything is documented, block that jerk! You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. 

Post about it 

Finally, make a little post (maybe in Stories so you don’t have to live with it on your grid forever) about your experience. This helps your friends stay aware about scams going around and also gives them a heads up, in case they’ve been scammed too. 

Getting scammed is never fun — and getting hacked on Instagram is an especially public way to get scammed. But, if you’re lucky, it’s probably more of a nuisance than anything else.

Just remember: DON’T CLICK ON ANY LINKS, and you should be fine.

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