Instagram phishing: How to stay safe from scams

Tips & tricks
9 mins

While Instagram can offer a platform for connection and creativity, it can also be a hunting ground for scammers. Instagram phishing scams are a devious way for hackers to steal your private information and potentially take over your account

By staying vigilant and following our tips, you can protect yourself and enjoy the Instagram experience without falling prey to digital predators and their phishing scams. 

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What is an Instagram phishing scam?

Instagram phishing is essentially a trick where someone tries to get hold of your personal information, such as your username, password, email address, or even banking details.

Phishing scammers employ clever tactics, sending you messages or links that seem legitimate at first glance. These often create a sense of urgency or fear, suggesting that your account is in danger of being banned, suspended, or deleted unless you act swiftly by following their instructions. 

Here are some common Instagram phishing scam tactics:

  • The impersonator: You get a DM or email supposedly from Instagram or Meta (Instagram’s parent company), warning of suspicious activity or some type of usage violation. The message often has a link to “verify” your account or update your information. Remember that banks and other official institutions never use social media to collect their clients’ sensitive and valuable data.
  • Copyright infringement phishing messages: They’ll claim you posted something that infringes on someone’s copyright and your account has been restricted. The message pressures you to click a link to appeal the decision, which takes you to phishing pages where you’re asked to enter your account information and other details.
  • Fake login alerts: The messages claim that you need to log in due to a security issue or to avoid account suspension. However, the provided link leads to a fraudulent login page designed to steal your login details.
  • Fake follower growth or account verification offers: The scammers will promise to help you increase your follower count or verify your Instagram account for a fee, asking for personal information and/or payment details under the false pretense of speeding up the verification process or getting more followers.
  • Prize, gift, and giveaways announcements: You receive notifications of winning a contest or being selected for a gift, only to be asked for a login, payment, or other personal information, or to complete other actions to claim your supposed prize.
  • The fake friend: You receive a DM from a seemingly familiar account, maybe even a clone account of someone you follow asking for help or offering something.
  • Blackmail: Phishers might threaten to expose your private photos or messages if you don’t comply with their demands. This is a serious crime; don’t engage with the scammer, and report the incident to Instagram and the police.
  • High-profile Instagram accounts, celebrities accounts: Scammers create fake accounts to impersonate high-profile accounts or celebrities, then try to trick you into giving them personal information or money. They might even hack a celebrity’s account to utilize their platform to carry out phishing attacks.
  • Shortened links in the account’s bio: Scammers often use shortened links in their bios. Clicking them might take you to fake surveys designed to steal your login details. These surveys often disguise themselves as harmless verifications or promises of exclusive offers.

How to recognize Instagram phishing attacks

Phishing on Instagram typically involves deceiving you into providing sensitive information. Here are some ways to recognize phishing on Instagram and keep your account safe:

  • Urgency and fear: Phishers often try to create panic by claiming your account is at risk of suspension, has committed a copyright violation, or other fear-based issues. Scammers will pressure you to click a link to “fix” the problem immediately.
  • Unsecured HTTPS sites: A padlock icon in a website URL indicates the website uses HTTPS, which encrypts communication. If a link takes you to a webpage that does not use HTTPS (instead using HTTP), that’s a red flag and means your activity on the site could more easily be monitored by someone.
  • Suspicious links and attachments: Don’t click on links or open attachments in DMs or emails from unknown senders. Even if the sender seems familiar, be cautious if the message content feels unusual.
  • Grammar and spelling mistakes: Official messages from Instagram are professionally written, while phishing messages may contain typos and grammatical mistakes.
  • Skewed logos, poor-quality images, or layout discrepancies. If a link takes you to a site where the graphics look a little fuzzy or there are buttons that don’t work, that’s a major sign that the website is fake and set up to mimic an official page.
  • Impersonation: Scammers might impersonate Instagram itself, popular brands, or even your friends. Check usernames, profile pictures, and email addresses carefully for inconsistencies, and never trust messages demanding money, offering gifts, or threatening to delete or ban your Instagram account. You should always confirm that the email is affiliated with Meta. All of these emails and accounts are legitimate for Meta:,,,,,,,,,,
  • Promises and offers too good to be true: Free followers, account verification for a fee, free products, or significant amounts of money, are common bait used in phishing scams and should raise red flags.

How to avoid being phished on Instagram

By integrating some basic practices into your daily use of Instagram (and other social media platforms), you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing scams. Awareness, skepticism, and proactive security measures are key!

Here are our practical tips to stay safe and avoid falling victim to Instagram phishing scams:

  • Never enter personal information prompted by someone else. While filling out online forms is a part of life, they should be tasks initiated by you, not by someone sending you a link. For example, if you want to buy something on Amazon, you’d log in to your account with a username and password, then check out by entering your credit card number. However, you should never enter this same information into an online form sent by someone else. By the same token, never reveal your personal details in online conversations to anyone, especially strangers.
  • Don’t click suspicious links or attachments. Be extremely cautious when someone sends you anything over Instagram. Look out for urgent or threatening language. Examine the content for poor spelling and grammar mistakes. Only follow links or open attachments if it’s sent by someone you know. 
  • Inspect URLs: Before entering anything into a website, look out for misspellings, extra characters, or subtle character changes (for instance, a capital i and a lowercase L look extremely similar).
  • Preview URLs: Before following any link, look at a preview of the site by hovering your cursor over it on desktop or long-tapping on mobile devices. A preview of the actual URL will appear in the bottom corner of your browser window. Does the URL match what’s displayed in the message?
  • Go to the source in a browser: If a message claims to be from Instagram or another brand, log in to the official app or website directly (don’t use links in the message) and check for any notifications or announcements there. 
  • Manage privacy settings: By making your Instagram account private, you can limit access to just friends and family. This would reduce the chances of someone sending you a phishing message.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Doing this minimizes your risks in the event that someone does successfully phish you for account information. It adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification beyond just the password.Enable 2FA on your Instagram app from the settings menu: Tap your profile picture in the bottom right corner > three horizontal lines > Accounts Centre/Security > Passwords and security > Two-factor authentication > Choose Instagram (if you also have other accounts like Facebook) > Choose your method for 2FA (such as authentication app, SMS text or WhatsApp).

A step-by-step overview of where to find Instagram's two-factor authentication settings.

What happens if you get phished on Instagram?

Getting phished on Instagram can lead to a series of serious events and security breaches such as data and identity theft and accounts takeover. 

Here’s what can happen when you fall victim to a phishing attack on Instagram:

  • Stolen data: This could include your: name, username, password, date of birth, address, phone number, bank account number, and card details. 
  • Account takeover: Once in your account, scammers can change your password, the email address associated with the account, and your profile information.
  • Financial loss: With access to your financial accounts or enough personal information, phishers can perform unauthorized transactions and steal your funds.
  • Malware infection: Some phishing attacks trick you into downloading malicious software. This malware can range from spyware, which monitors your actions and collects more data, to ransomware, which locks you out of your system until a ransom is paid. It can damage your device or corrupt files, and turn your device into a spam machine, sending out phishing attempts to your contacts.
  • Reputational damage: Scammers can use your compromised account to:
    • Post spam or offensive content.
    • Impersonate you to scam your friends and followers.
    • Spread misinformation or propaganda.
  • Compromised accounts: If the stolen Instagram login credentials are reused for your other accounts (especially if you use the same password across platforms), those accounts could also be compromised.
  • Identity theft: With enough personal information, attackers can commit identity theft, apply for credit, make purchases, or conduct illegal activities in your name.
  • Recovery challenges: Recovering a hacked Instagram account can be a frustrating and time-consuming process.
  • How to recover an Instagram account after a phishing hack

If someone has hacked your Instagram account following a phishing attack, you can take steps to recover your hacked Instagram account. However, the course you take will depend on what has happened to your account.

  • If you can still sign in: Change your password immediately. This should kick off anyone else logged in to your account. But to be sure, you can check where you’re logged in and manually log out other devices. 
  • If the hacker has changed your password: Tap Forgotten Password? > Search by mobile number. Enter your phone number, and you’ll receive an SMS with a password reset link. Change your password. 
  • If you’re locked out completely: Head to Instagram’s account recovery page and follow the steps to get help.

Can a VPN protect your Instagram account?

A VPN download can increase your privacy when you use Instagram by hiding your real IP address. This makes it harder for Instagram to tell where you are located. 

However, a VPN won’t prevent someone from sending you a phishing link and it won’t block a website from you if it happens to be a phishing site.

Another benefit of using a VPN for Instagram is that it can help you access Instagram in countries where it is censored or in places like schools and offices where the Wi-Fi network blocks the app.

FAQ: About Instagram phishing

What is phishing on Instagram?
Can Instagram phishing steal personal data?
How do I know if I am talking to a scammer?
How to report phishing on Instagram?
Can Instagram’s two-factor authentication prevent phishing?
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