When cruising the gram for cute dog pics and great looks, make sure you watch out for stock photos or questionable giveaways—and never give out your personal info or location data.
How many Instagram followers do you have? Are you an official Influencer? Or are you just there to see some adorable dogs? Or delicious meals? Or… cutetastic… makeup tutorials?
But among all that good stuff on the gram, there’s something not so good: scammers! Yes, as with every new form of communication or interaction since the sending of the first smoke signal, if people can talk with it, scammers will try to scam with it.
So we’re here to keep you safe while you’re looking at those gorgeous landscapes and cool graffiti portraits.
Don’t take that face at face value.
As the old saying goes, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Similarly, that profile picture may not belong to the person who created the account. Whether it’s a celebrity or a stock photo, there are many people using Instagram with a face that’s not their own. And some of those people will be trying to scam you.
“Investigate profiles,” advised Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified.com. “Scammers often have poorly made profiles. If you suspect a person may not be who he/she is claiming, do a little investigating.”
“How many followers does this person have? A major red flag for a fake account is a ‘following’ list significantly higher than the number of followers. Does he/she have a plethora of seemingly-legit photos, or does he/she only have a handful of what looks like stock photos? You can validate a photo’s authenticity via Google Image search. Are they claiming to be a well-known brand or person without a Verification Badge? Some scammer accounts are obvious; others are impossible to tell. Trust your instincts.”
Watch out for fake giveaways.
Beyond looking for the Verification Badge, you should be immediately suspicious if a company or brand’s account name isn’t just the name of that company or brand.
“If you see an account that has a company name (that may look official) plus ‘giveaway’ as the account handle, it’s likely fake,” warned Holly Zink, social media expert for Digital Addicts. “If a real company does have a sweepstake or giveaway, it will be done through their verified account.”
Be careful with those personal details.
Parents used to warn kids to never give out any information on the internet. Now parents put pictures of their children all over Facebook and Instagram. But you should still be careful of just how much you share.
“Change personal information on your account,” suggested Lavelle. “Avoid providing your full name, birthday, and home address. Scammers only need a few pieces of your personal details to search for your other social media accounts and gather more and more information about you. Use nicknames and bios without too much revealing information. Consider setting your account to private. While this may slow down follower growth (and if that will affect your business/brand, skip this step), you can manage who sees your content.”
Zink backed Lavelle’s call for caution: “No matter how enticing an Instagram offer may sound, never provide anyone with your personal information. Just like on other social media platforms, you don’t know if the person or business is who they claim to be.”
And more specifically…
Don’t share specific location data.
When it comes to personal information, you definitely do not want to share your exact location.
“Avoid giving out information on exact whereabouts,” Lavelle told us. “This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people forget this Instagram safety step, especially when going on vacation. Not only does sharing exact whereabouts put your safety at risk, but also it announces, ‘Hey, I’m not home right now–robberies are welcome!’”
“Furthermore, hashtags can give scammers personal information without you realizing it. For an example, if a person took a picture of himself/herself in an office and tags it with ‘#work,’ ‘#microsoft,’ and ‘#Bellevue,’ anyone can determine when, where, and what this person works.”
Be on the lookout for phishing scams.
We’ve warned you about phishing scams via email, but someone may also try to snag you via an Instagram DM. In general, you should probably ignore DMs on Instagram unless you’re absolutely sure of who they’re coming from. And even then, you should be extremely wary about clicking a link that’s sent to you unless you’re beyond certain that you know what it is.
Because scammers will try to send you a link that looks like the link to a legitimate site but may have a similar looking character swapped out for the real one. Even just clicking a phishing link could mess up your device, but you may also be prompted to enter your password information. Hopefully, we don’t have to tell you not to do that, but just in case: DO NOT DO THAT!
If you need to log in, just re-enter the actual site or close the app and open it again from your device so you can be certain you’re going to the right place before entering any information.
Keep these tips in mind and you can safely peruse all the kitties and donuts you want without fear!
Justin Lavelle is a Scams Prevention Expert and the Chief Communications Officer of BeenVerified.com. BeenVerified is a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It helps people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives and can provide peace of mind by offering a fast, easy and affordable way to do background checks on potential dates. BeenVerified allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses and property records.
Holly Zink has been a social media and tech expert for 3 years. She’s currently a regular writer on the tech blog Digital Addicts.
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