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Cybercrime Update: Instascamming

The Insta-Scam (and Instaspam components)  is a relatively new cyber scam operated on social media and targeting users on mediums such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


The Traditional Insta-Scam

Scammers post pictures on social media of free items, giveaways and high-end brands, encouraging social media to “like and share” to comply with contest “rules” (also known as “Instaspam”). When followers take such actions, they may be redirected to another page by shortened URLs where the scammers will subsequently attempt to get access to your online accounts, request credit card details, passwords or personal information.

Malicious links disguised as promotional codes in these posts can also distribute Malware or Phishing links to unsuspecting followers.“GIVEAWAY” accounts often fall under the guise of well known brands and companies that may, genuinely, engage in these promotions, such as in 2012 when a wave of seemingly authentic Airline GIVEAWAY accounts appeared. American Airlines, Jet Blue, Delta, United Airlines and Emirates were all victims of this mass scale scam, with some accounts quickly gaining more than 20,000 followers.

The companies issued warnings to fans via Twitter and other media outlets, but not before many had handed over money to fraudsters.


Account Flipping

Account flipping is a user-targeted scam involving the set up of a social media account, usually on Instagram, (sometimes Facebook) based on a familiar brand, company or a certain appeal to a large demographic of social media users (giveaways tend to be involved to lure in people based on likes, following or retweeting). Instagram is only recently working on a “Verified Accounts” program, unlike Twitter and Facebook, and so it is a haven for unauthentic accounts and potential victims.

Once this account garners a large build-up of followers, mistaken into thinking it is an official account,  the moderator then sells the account with all its credentials. Accounts get flipped or owner gets paid to disseminate someone else’s content. This scam involves profit for successful scammers, and brand dilution and loss of followers for genuine brands.


Popular Post Scams

With the increasing popularity of Instagram across all demographics, many scammers take the opportunity of Trolling popular celebrity and company accounts with comments on how to earn money fast or with minimal effort. They advertise reloadable cards, essentially a debit card you can purchase, and “only” require the security number on your own card.

The scammer then states he can jailbreak the system, adding zeros, and money to your account. These scammers rarely get away with much money, and the victims are most likely not to report this scam to the police, as they’re essentially complicit in a theft.


Program Marketing Scams

Inline with the popularity of certain apps, cyber scammers are, and will continue to be, quick to take advantage of ways in which to appeal to the masses with false products related to well-known apps. Last year a program marketed as “Instagram for PC”, targeting the millions of Instagram users, was nothing more than a cyber-scam.

Once downloaded, pop-ups to online surveys appeared instead of access to Instagram accounts. Though there was no malware involved in this particular instance, money was generated by scammers for driving traffic to surveys.


Threats of Insta-Scams

  • By following hyperlinks in suspect posts victims may be unknowingly downloading viruses, malware or phishing software.
  • Those naive to the standards of giveaways and lotteries may often be tricked into providing personal or financial information.
  • By contacting scammers in the hope of “Turning $100 into $1000” users may be acting unlawfully, whether by intent or otherwise.
  • Popular companies, celebrities and brands are easy targets for Insta-Scams, as scammers have an instant resource to hundreds of thousands of followers and only some brands have “Verified Account” badges.
  • Traffic hijacking from authentic brands’ accounts is a huge concern for companies who have invested in marketing and research, but  then are duplicated. Genuine customers and followers are lured into fake accounts by promises of free giftcards, goods etc. Starbucks alone have hundreds of online impersonators; diluting their authentic brand, advertising, trademarks and scamming genuine customers. Though some fake accounts may be seemingly harmless, the damage to the following and customer base that this can do to even medium sized companies can be quite substantial. 

How to Spot an Insta-Scam.

  • “Free/ Give Away”
  • Accounts consisting solely of pictures for free things; more than likely a  spam account.
  • Never follow hyperlinks in these posts that redirect you to quizzes or pages requesting personal information
  • New apps that promise free “likes” or followers to build your network.
  • In the case of brands and celebrities, only follow instagram accounts enabled with Instagram’s “Verified Account” badge to ensure you’re following the authentic account intended.
  • Read the fine print

How can WebPreserver help?

WebPreserver archiving, preserving and authenticating technology can assist Internet Regulators, companies and legal professionals alike in efforts to monitor online activity cyber crime, cyber scams and protect social media accounts from fraudsters.

For Companies and Individuals: Protect your brand and social media account by utilising WebPreserver legal archiving technology to capture and preserve instances of impersonation and false advertising of your content on social media with our simple plug in. Authenticated WebPreserver archived content can be used in cases of litigation for infringement of intellectual property, impersonation, fraud, defamation and more.

WebPreserver is compatible with all social media mediums, and can be utilised efficiently and easily, creating solid evidence in cases of litigation against scammers and bots.

Internet Regulators: Internet regulators and Social Media providers have a duty to monitor, regulate and sanction illegal advertisers and cyber-scammers and evidence of these fake accounts and so WebPreserver provides the perfect eDiscovery tool to do so.

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