It’s probably hard to find someone who hasn’t seen the new Netflix documentary Tinder Swindler, which has driven people into a frenzy on the internet. The lead in this story is Shimon Hayut (Leviev), a guy who defrauded millions of dollars with his fake account from women he met on the dating app Tinder.
Tinder Swindler is probably just one example of many because there are a lot of other frauds out there and not only on Tinder but also on Instagram. Instagram DM’s have become a popular place to meet people and the expression “sliding into her/his DMs” has become almost the same as a match on Tinder. Although you can meet someone on Instagram as well, there are still a lot of differences between the two apps – one is solely meant for finding romantic connections while the other has a lot more going on. To make social media a safer place, we wrote down five red flags to keep an eye out for identifying frauds and fake accounts.
1. No profile picture
If an account contacts you and they don’t have a profile picture, this might be the first red flag. Why would a person want to hide their face when they’re on an app created to share photos of themselves and their lives? If you are sure that it is your friend or someone else you know, then it is totally fine, but a stranger, who doesn’t want to show who they are, is suspicious. Other than that, they could use some celebrity’s photo as their profile picture to make themselves more attractive and increase the possibility of people following them back.
2. The numbers don’t add up
In general, the rule is that a real Instagram account always has a few followers. So, if you get a follow from an account with no followers and they’re not following anybody, you should probably just stay away. Bots often use those accounts to send spam or links that include viruses. So be extra careful when clicking on the links someone sends to your private messages.
If the link is not sent by anyone you know or you have a slight doubt if it’s safe, we recommend you look past FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and not click on it. In addition to having no followers, it is also suspicious when posts are disproportionate to the number of followers. If you post too little, people will lose interest in following you, and the number of followers cannot be very high.
3. Copy-paste comments
It sure is nice when people leave comments under your posts, but sometimes it is done by accounts that you don’t know anything about, and it’s always the same text. “Cool picture” or “Good post” are commonly used comments fake accounts could use. Of course, there’s an option that someone found your profile and truly meant those compliments, but you should keep an eye out for the red flags mentioned before.
If they don’t have any followers or don’t have a profile picture, then they could be a fake account or a bot that only leaves comments so you would follow them. Later they could offer you a collaboration that requires sending them your personal data, but this is something you definitely shouldn’t fall for.
You’ve probably seen accounts where someone uses another person’s photo as their profile picture or even uses some celebrity’s name as their username. Creating fake accounts has also become increasingly popular when it comes to businesses and brands. Scammers usually change only one letter or punctuation mark in the username, so it’s tricky for people to tell if it is a real account or not. It usually happens when the brand posts a giveaway, and then the fake account sends links to participants saying, “you have won the **** giveaway.”
Again, before you click on any link, you should be very careful. If you spot that someone’s account is being copied for immoral purposes, report it and inform Instagram. You can do it at this link: https://help.instagram.com/contact/636276399721841.
5. Too good to be true
One other thing that fraud accounts might do is sell products for luxury brands with suspiciously low prices. Many people have seen Ray-Ban’s fake accounts that sell sunglasses at an almost non-existent price. When you spot an account that sells something luxurious very cheaply, make sure it’s the real deal before giving Instagram or any other app your data or clicking on any links. Accounts that forward these “amazing offers” are also a big annoyance for the brands because the cheated person might not buy the genuine product anymore.
It’s likely that we cannot talk about every possible and sneaky trick that fraudsters might use, but knowing these five will give you some perspective to avoid getting scammed. In addition to educating yourself, many apps can help you identify fake accounts using statistics and authentication technology. One of them is called Spamguard. Nowadays, when there are so many ways to operate online, you should be extra careful when sharing your data or accepting new follow requests.
What should you do if you’ve fallen victim to a fake account scam?
- Change the password of your account
- Scan your computer for detecting any viruses
- Notify an app or another company about the scam.
Stay safe, and stay suspicious – if a billionaire needs you to pawn your car, something’s gotta be fishy!
Check out our article about cybercrime and how to keep your accounts safe.