With the creation of every new social media platform comes a new way to scam the people using them. Facebook is one of the biggest problem sites, but these days, Instagram has become a big problem for scams of all kinds. Scammers use fake accounts to trick people into sending money for fictitious causes like sick relatives, animals that need help or even crowdsourcing projects. The biggest Instagram scams of all, however, are romance scams.
Instagram romance scams are a popular way to trick unsuspecting victims out of their money. Creating fake profiles is easy, and it’s incredibly easy to access suitable victims.
In order to protect yourself from Instagram romance scammers, you need to arm yourself with information about what to watch for and what to avoid.
Things To Know about Instagram Romance Scams
How Instagram Romance Scams Work
Just like any other romance scam, Instagram romance scams involve scammers trying to trick victims into sending them money.
With a site like Instagram, it’s easy to start a conversation with someone by first liking their posts, and then reaching out via Direct Messages to take the conversation private. The scammer will claim to be someone who shares interests with the potential victim. The scammer will likely have an account that reflects the common interests. For example, he might be a dog enthusiast who reaches out because a victim has lots of dog photos.
Scammers are able to cast a wide net, reaching out to dozens, even hundreds, of potential victims to see if anyone responds. It’s not uncommon for them to operate several scams at the same time.
Once a victim responds to a direct message, the scam begins. It starts out innocently enough, with the scammer striking up a friendship with the victim. If the victim is open to their romantic advances, the scammer pretends to be the perfect partner. Even though Instagram isn’t considered a traditional online dating platform, the fact that it connects people makes it the perfect place for people with like interests to meet each other.
As soon as the scammer develops a trusting relationship with the victim the scam begins. The scammer will suddenly ask for money, often with the explanation that something unexpected happened that puts them in a difficult financial situation. He might claim his dog is sick, knowing that his victim loves dogs. Soon there are all kinds of requests for money coming in.
As with any romance scam, any time someone you don’t know starts asking for money it should be a red flag.
Instagram romance scams are problematic because you never really know that you’re talking to the person you think you’re talking to because there’s no way to verify an account unless it’s an official business or celebrity account. There are so many fake accounts that it’s impossible to tell what’s real and what isn’t. Generally speaking, if someone you don’t know contacts you, then proceed with caution.
As soon as the conversations start getting personal, be even more careful. It could be innocent and you might be communicating with a genuinely good person. However, odds are good that you could be dealing with a scammer.
The final red flag comes when the scammer asks for money. At first it will be a small amount, but over time the requests will be more specific, often defying logic. If your friend needs plane tickets and asks to send money to someone in another state to purchase those tickets on his behalf, then he’s trying to get you to send the money to someone who will launder the money so that the trail becomes even harder to follow.
No Security On Instagram
Instagram is not an online dating platform. Though people have met on the social media platform, it wasn’t designed to fulfil that function and so there are no security measures in place to protect you.
There is no verification system with Instagram like the kind you would find on a site like eHarmony or Match to ensure that the person you’re talking to is the person he claims to be. That means that it’s up to you to stay safe on your own, but without any way to verify someone’s identity this is easier said than done. If the person that contacts you wants to take your friendship to the next level, propose a phone call. If he won’t call, then it’s likely because he’s not who he says he is.
Make sure you report fake profiles to Instagram when you encounter them, and block people that you find to be suspicious.
How To Protect Yourself From Scammers
There’s nothing inherently wrong with people you don’t know contacting you on Instagram. Social media is meant to bring people together, but the unfortunate side effect is that there will always be people trying to trick you.
The first rule is to never give out personal information to strangers. You wouldn’t do it with a stranger on the street, so why do it with a stranger on the internet? If someone you have been talking with privately on Instagram starts asking for money, you know something is wrong.
And if he threatens you for not sending money, know that you can go to the police and receive protection. The fact of the matter is that the scammer is likely an ocean away given that so many scammers are based in African nations, with Nigeria being one of the biggest exporters of romance scammers.
The only way someone asking for money could be legitimate is if the person had a GoFundMe for a verifiable situation like a car accident or emergency, and this is something that could be traced through the crowdsourcing platform. But again, this would be a very rare exception. It’s so much easier for these situations to be scams.
The Bottom Line
Instagram is a wonderful platform to share photos and talk about your experiences with people who share your interests. It’s unfortunate that there are people out there who would use it to prey upon unsuspecting victims, but that’s how life is as the internet grows with every passing day.
It’s important to be smart when people you don’t know contact you. There have even been cases of people impersonating celebrities who reach out to fans on Instagram asking for donations to their charities.
The only way to stop the Instagram romance scammers is to stop them before they take advantage of you. There is no one watching out for you in these situations, so make sure that you remain vigilant and always be wary of anyone who starts sending you private messages.
The old adage is true: It’s better to be safe than sorry.
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