Cybercrime

'Get rich quick' schemes target Instagram users

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Authorities have reported hundreds of Instagram users falling prey to fake “get rich quick” investment schemes, each losing on average £9,000 pounds to such online cons.

According to the UK’s fraud reporting platform, Action Fraud, there have been 356 separate incidents of fraudulent activity on Instagram since October 2018 with north of £3 million lost in the process. The majority of the victims were aged between 20 and 30 years old.

Largely a result of the target market, Instagram posts have been utilised by cybercriminals to lure users into sending them initial £600 “investments” with the promise of significant returns within hours of bank transfer.

The agency said: “Fraudsters are then sending screenshots of thousands in profit crediting [the user’s] accounts, which they claim can be released for a fee.

“Victims have requested to withdraw their funds while they’re still in profit, and at this stage the fraudsters are stopping contact with the victim and closing the Instagram account.”

Inspector Paul Carroll of Action Fraud warned Instagram users of such scammers, urging them to ignore requests for money from unknown users and to check details of any financial institutions on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) website.

“Opportunistic fraudsters are taking advantage of unsuspecting victims who are going about their day-to-day lives on social media,” said Carroll.

Carroll’s comments came as part of a report released by Action Fraud in response to an FCA warning that online investment scams were becoming “increasingly sophisticated”.

The FCA said: “Fraudsters are now contacting potential victims though emails, professional-looking websites and social media channels, such as Facebook and Instagram.” The online movement has therefore meant that young investors were at higher risk of falling victim to such schemes.

The authority further noted that those aged 25 and below were six times more likely to trust and partake in an investment deal received on social media platform, as opposed to those aged 55 and above.

Jake Moore, a cybersecurity expert at ESET IT security firm, said: “With Instagram being one of the most popular apps, it’s no wonder people become immersed in this online life and its absorbing nature blurring the line between reality and the virtual world.

“People can be very tempted to believe such requests especially if peers or friends have already invested. Social proof is a highly regarded persuasion technique used by fraudsters whereby the more followers and traction an account can achieve, the more believable it can be. Sadly though, it usually takes someone from the outside to realise it’s a con.”

The social media platform itself takes a hard stance against any fraudulent activity – investment related or not.

An Instagram spokesperson commented: “Fake and fraudulent activity is not allowed on Instagram. We proactively fight against this type of content and are always improving our systems to quickly detect and remove anything that violates our community guidelines.”

About Lee Hazell

Lee Hazell is a cyber security consultant with a keen interest in anything tech or security related. Follow Lee on .

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