People have always been looking for ways to cheat others out of their money. You may remember the old “get rich quick” schemes that used to appear in newspapers, phone calls, and emails. But now — as you might expect — scammers have moved to social media.

Instagram is very popular among young people — which makes it a perfect place for internet scammers to find victims. And kids and teens may be more likely to fall for a lot of Instagram scams. Parents can usually tell when something is fishy, even if they didn’t grow up with social media. We know to end the chat as soon as someone asks for money or personal details. But kids may not notice the warning signs as easily.

That’s why parents need to teach their kids about these things, to make sure they are safe and secure from online scammers. The Pinardin team has created this helpful guide that shows you the common scams your kid may encounter, and how to avoid them.

What Is Instagram?

instagram logo

Instagram is a social media app that millions of people use every day. You can watch funny videos, share pictures of your adventures, and chat with your friends and family on Instagram.

The app has a lot of cool features, like video and photo-sharing, that make it very popular among teenagers. Instagram also lets you message with your friends and other people online in real time. Social media is how many teenagers stay in touch and have fun with their peers.

But Instagram is not all fun and games. There are also some risks and dangers on the app, and there are more and more scams happening on Instagram. Some of these scams are aimed at teenagers and kids.

Why Instagram Scammers Often Target Kids

Before we delve into the common scams, let’s understand why kids are frequently chosen as targets. Social media provides scammers with a highly lucrative environment, with reported losses due to social media fraud exceeding 770 million dollars in 2021 alone. It’s important to note that this figure likely underrepresents the actual losses incurred.

While technically anyone can fall prey to an Instagram scam, kids and teenagers are particularly vulnerable. Their trusting nature and tendency to be less skeptical of unexpected requests for money or personal information make them easy targets. Additionally, since most of their social media interactions are with friends, they may let their guard down even when receiving a direct message from an unfamiliar account.

These factors collectively make kids a prime target for scammers. Now, let’s delve into the specific tactics these scammers might employ to exploit children on Instagram.

Beware of These Common Instagram Scams

While there are various ways scammers can target kids, here are a few common ones to be aware of:

Sugar Daddy Direct Messages

This one might sound strange, and rightfully so. The scam involves a “wealthy adult” reaching out, proposing a relationship they’re willing to pay for. These scammers will direct message your child, enticing them with promises of free money in exchange for companionship, often framed as weekly payments or allowances.

There are two potential outcomes to this scam. Some scammers may request to borrow money under false pretenses, with no intention of repayment – in essence, they’re after your money. On the other hand, these scams may involve predators looking to groom your child. Sugar daddy scams are notorious for having a sexual element, making it critically important to shield kids from falling victim to this type of scam.

Impersonation Tactics

At times, scammers resort to creating fake accounts and sliding into your kid’s DMs, posing as someone else. They might impersonate a friend of your child, a beloved celebrity, or an influencer your child follows. In some instances, scammers even go as far as pretending to be someone of a similar age, turning Instagram into an unintended dating app.

The motives behind such impersonation can vary. Some scammers aim to gather personal information for account hacking, while others have more sinister intentions. There are cases where these scammers, in fact, act as predators attempting to establish a connection with your child, ultimately with the goal of targeting them in the real world.

Deceptive Giveaway Winner Announcements

Navigating giveaways on Instagram can be tricky. Many legitimate brands and influencers run honest contests where participants can genuinely win prizes. Everything seems above board, and there’s nothing to worry about—until scammers decide to exploit those who have entered these contests.

Here’s how it unfolds: An influencer posts a giveaway picture, requiring followers to tag a friend in the comments to enter. Your kid excitedly tags their bestie, along with numerous other participants. Scammers, operating with a fake account impersonating the influencer, then message your kid and others, declaring, “Congrats! You won my giveaway!”

The red flag emerges when they start soliciting credit card information and other personal details. Legitimate giveaways typically don’t ask for payment information. Yet, the thrill of winning might lead kids to respond hastily before verifying the legitimacy of the account messaging them.

Phony Contests on Instagram

Taking a more deceptive approach than fake giveaways, scammers sometimes create their own Instagram contests instead of partnering with genuine brands or influencers. These contests are often designed to extract personal information from entrants. For example, a contest might demand details like a person’s mother’s maiden name or the name of their first pet for entry. Subsequently, this information may be sold or used for hacking into bank accounts.

Beware of Phishing Attacks

Another prevalent scam to watch out for is known as phishing. In this scheme, your child receives a link purportedly for accessing their Instagram account. A simple click from your kid, and boom — the hackers gain access. These links typically harbor viruses or malware that can infiltrate their account or, in more severe cases, compromise their devices.

A crucial aspect of identifying phishing scams is understanding who it’s coming from. These deceptive links may originate from seemingly legitimate third-party accounts, such as one claiming to be “Instagram” and urging the user to log back in. However, phishing attempts can also come from friends and family. Rest assured, your friends and family aren’t trying to scam your kid. Instead, scammers exploit a compromised friend’s account, impersonating them to coax your kid into clicking their malicious link. Imagine a scenario where a friend messages your kid with a seemingly innocent request like, “Hey! Can you vote for me in this school contest? Just go to this link…” It seems harmless, right? That’s precisely what the scammer hopes your kid will think.

Given the challenge children face in discerning between genuine and compromised accounts, this scam can be deceptively easy to fall for.

Quick Money Schemes: Proceed with Caution

Last but not least, the ever-present make-money-quick scams. It’s the same old song with a different verse. In your kid’s DMs or through comments, they might encounter a pitch like, “Just click this link, sign up for our program, and start making money instantly!” Alternatively, it could involve purchasing a dubious product.

Similar to the scams discussed earlier, the outcome here is either your kid losing money or unwittingly providing personal information susceptible to hacking. Unfortunately, this scheme tends to be alluring, especially for older teens seeking quick and easy cash.

Safeguarding Your Kids from Instagram Scams

While the internet offers a fantastic space for kids to explore and learn, ensuring their safety online is paramount. Fortunately, there are several measures parents can take to protect their children. Education plays a crucial role in preventing kids from falling victim to scams, but there are also steps parents can take if, by chance, their child gets entangled in a scam.

Let’s explore some proactive steps parents can take to support and safeguard their kids!

Develop a Watchlist of Red Flags

Empowering your kids with awareness about Instagram scams involves creating a watchlist of common suspicious behaviors. Here are a few key points to include:

  • Accounts with Minimal Activity: Be cautious of accounts displaying little to no historical activity.
  • Requests for Money or Gift Cards: Warn against responding to individuals asking for money or gift cards.
  • Unfamiliar Links: Advise against clicking on links that are not easily recognizable.
  • Password or Personal Information Requests: Stress the importance of never sharing passwords or any personally identifiable information.

While Instagram provides a helpful list of things to watch out for, it’s essential to acknowledge that scammers are becoming more sophisticated. Therefore, both parents and children should maintain a vigilant stance while using platforms like Instagram. Additionally, instill in your kids the ability to identify predatory behavior beyond simple monetary scams.

Foster Trust in Discussing Online Activities

A significant aspect of ensuring your children’s safety online is cultivating trust. Establish an environment where your child feels comfortable approaching you if something online raises concerns. Pay attention to your responses, as creating a judgment-free space encourages ongoing communication.

Initiating open conversations serves as a foundation for trust. Children are more likely to share their experiences when parents express support and genuine interest in their online activities. This sets the stage for them to feel secure disclosing any troubling incidents.

Should you notice anything unsettling on your child’s Instagram, address the issue directly. Early intervention is crucial, as it reduces the likelihood of the situation escalating into a more serious problem.

Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

An effective way to fortify your family’s online security is by adopting two-factor authentication (2FA).

2FA adds an extra layer of protection, requiring not only a password but also a secondary piece of information, such as a code from a phone or email. Even if someone gains access to the password, they cannot enter the account without the additional authentication. This proves invaluable in preventing unauthorized access, particularly if your child inadvertently shares their information with a hacker. While the initial setup of 2FA may seem inconvenient, the long-term benefits far outweigh the effort. Therefore, we strongly recommend utilizing 2FA wherever possible to enhance online safety for your family.