What are Scammers? Understand Fraud on Instagram

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    Learn more about how malicious profiles act on the social network, how to protect against attacks and report them.

    Scammers (or fraudsters) are malicious profiles used to perform scams on the Internet. The number of schemes has grown so much that Instagram in November 2018 has positioned itself against criminal profiles.

    The online environment facilitates illegal actions, due to the difficulty of tracking the criminal and the lack of information of Internet users how to report. These profiles are more difficult to identify than a common fake, since they act as if they were real – post photos, captions, stories and information that give legitimacy to the profile, which can be personal or institutional.

    How does a scammer act?

    The scammer searches for some specific return, bank or personal information, money, passwords or some other artifice of value. They usually act in two distinct ways: the first is stealing information from links or URLs, practice is known as “phishing.” The second is the approximation of the victim establishing a relationship of trust, being able to present itself as a company, institution or as a suitor.

    The “romance scam” (also known as “Catfish”) is when the criminal establishes a relationship with the victim. It can also be called the “Nigerian Coup” because it is commonly practiced by people in this country where the government has no way to track down criminals. After applying the blows, the suitors disappear and create new profiles, applying further blows to other victims.

    The main scams

    1. An offer of Free Products

    In this type of scheme, scam artists claim to offer free products to victims. The purported companies provide products or services in exchange likes, shares or disclosures. To complete the delivery, ask them to sign up and submit personal information, such as the address and a contact email. Users thus have their information stolen. If they register bank information, they may even have their card taken.

    1. Change password

    In this scheme, the scammers go through agents of the Instagram platform and send to the victims of the platform Instagram and send the victims a message of security. It tells the victims that for security reasons, it is necessary to reset the password. When clicking on the link of the messages, the spammers have their password stolen.

    1. Proof of authenticity

    The victim receives a private message that supposedly would be from the Instagram platform, requesting the sending of personal photos to prove their identity. Otherwise, your account may be deemed to be false and excluded. After sending, criminals take advantage of the naivety of the victim and appropriate the images, which can be used to create fake profiles.

    1. Farm followers

    The so-called “click farm” practice is the purchase of a service that increases the number of tanned and followers, giving visibility to the profile. The scammers offer the victims the service in exchange for a certain amount of money. In this scheme, users do not receive services and lose money. In some other cases, they may even have their bank details stolen.

    1. Debt renegotiation company

    Cybercrime consists of scam artists pretending to be bankers. They contact the ‘client,’ through Instagram, to renegotiate debts. Internet users, believing that they will have the debt-struck, pay the value to the criminals. The victims eventually lose the amount spent and remain with the active debt in the bank.

    1. Get rich quick

    This practice is also known as “money flipping.” An investment scam that promises victims a quick financial return. The scammers ask Internet users to invest a certain amount and promise an instant profit. After the initial investment, they simulate the profit generated and ask the victim to pay a fee to receive. After the money transfer, they close the fake account and disappear.

    According to the Action Fraud website, the period between October 2018 and February 2019, 356 cases were reported. The stolen average value per person is £8,900.

    1. Online dating with strangers

    In this type of scheme, the coup devises and builds a loving relationship with the victim, usually a woman, through a false profile. Criminals, after establishing a relationship of trust, claim that they are in financial difficulty and ask for a certain amount of money. In some cases, they go through strangers who need money to go to the victims. After receiving, they disappear.

    Another method used is to tell the victims, who are sending a gift and then claim that they got stuck in customs. At that moment, they call their partners and ask for a fee to release them.

    How to protect yourself

    • Do not share personal or bank information with people, institutions or companies you do not know. To make payments, give preference to applications like PayPal or any trusted provider.
    • When receiving messages from companies such as banking institutions, contact the company on official channels. Check if the company came in contact or if it could be a scam. Also, do not click on suspicious activity links or checks if you are not sure of their authenticity.
    • Beware of approaching strangers on the Internet, be wary if they ask for some financial help and never send intimate photos. They can be used for blackmail in practice known as sextorm.
    • As they are constantly switching accounts, a tip to identify a fake profile is by checking the account creation date, creation location, how many times the user has renamed, and how many profile-like profiles exist on the platform.
    • In addition to following these tips, the user can also install applications on the PC and on the phone that detect scammers, such as anti-virus capable of automatically detecting and blocking malicious profiles. After installing an antivirus of your choice, always keep the programs up-to-date with the latest versions available for Windows, MacOS and Linux operating systems.

    How to report scammers

    It is essential that the victim of online scams go to a police station and issue an incident report, as it is the only legal way of filing a complaint. Instagram also has a Privacy and Security Center responsible for verifying reports of violations of the Terms of Use on the platform.

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