While competition scams and attempts to access people’s accounts aren’t new, Instagram has also seen a rise in “hostage-style” scams, where people are forced to post videos telling people to invest in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to get their hacked accounts returned. Multiple Instagram users, as reported by VICE, have been pressured into recording videos after their accounts were hacked. Other people report losing thousands to Instagram scammers. The incidents highlight why you shouldn’t trust every account you follow.
“Cryptocurrency scams are quick methods to whisk users away from the relative safety of the Instagram platform and onto trading sites where Instagram can’t help,” Boyd says. “Extortion-driven cryptocurrency endorsements are a smart move on the part of the scammer. Leveraging people you know and trust in visual mediums to promote something is always going to be more convincing than a random email.”
How to Avoid Getting Scammed
There are things you can do to avoid getting hacked and the worst scams—these are a mixture of security settings and slight behavioral tweaks. Thankfully the process isn’t too complicated, and small changes can make a big difference.
First, as mentioned earlier, you should avoid clicking on links that are sent to you, especially from accounts that you don’t know personally, or if someone you know sends a URL that seems out of character. “Following an account for many months still may not make it an authentic account,” Moore says.
If an account doesn’t seem right, you can look into its origins. “Research accounts to decide if they can be trusted—you can find information, such as when an account was created, by clicking About this Account under a profile. You can also check whether accounts are verified,” Barker says.
Second, your default setting should be one of suspicion. If your Instagram account is public, anyone can see your posts and message you. By limiting who can message you, you reduce the chances of being exposed to scams. To change whether your account is public or private, visit Settings
While you are in privacy settings, you should also limit who can message you. Under Messages there are options to send received messages to a Message Requests folder, and you can stop accounts that don’t follow you from messaging you through the Others on Instagram menu. For more details, see our guides on how to limit who can contact you on Instagram and the steps you can take to stop tracking and improve your Instagram privacy.
Arguably the biggest way you can protect your account from being taken over by scammers is by using a unique, strong password—stored in a password manager—and turning on multifactor authentication. Enabling multifactor authentication requires anyone trying to log in to your account to use a login code or click a notification in addition to using your password—and it’s effective against account takeovers.
To turn on two-factor authentication on Instagram, tap on your profile picture in the bottom right corner of your phone, then tap on the hamburger menu. Go to Settings, then Security, then Two-Factor Authentication. You can turn on security protection there. If, in the worst-case scenario, your Instagram account does get hacked, here’s what you should do.
More Great WIRED Stories