Instagram Scams Parents Should Warn Their Kids About￼
Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to scam other people out of money. We all know the classic “get rich quick” scams that used to be in newspaper ads, then over the phone, and eventually, our email inboxes. But nowadays — not surprisingly — scammers have set up shop on social media.
Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps among young people — which means it’s a target-rich environment for internet scammers. And kids and teens are likely more susceptible to a lot of Instagram scams. Parents can probably spot these scams from a mile away, even if they didn’t grow up with social media. As soon as someone is asking for money or personal information, we know to leave the conversation immediately. But kids might not see the red flags as quickly.
So it’s up to parents to educate their kids on these things, to be sure they are safe and protected in the (virtual) face of internet scammers. That’s why the Bark team has put together this handy guide that lists the common scams your kid might come across, as well as ways to protect from them.
What Is Instagram?
Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. From watching memes to posting photos from a recent outing, Instagram has made it possible for people to connect and message in ways like never before.
The myriad of features, such as video and photo-sharing, has made the app extremely popular among teenagers. Instagram also offers a variety of messaging features that allow kids to interact with their friends and other individuals online in real-time. Social media is one of the key ways that modern teenagers connect with their peers.
However, like many social media platforms, Instagram is also home to many dangers and has seen a significant rise in scams. Many of these are often targeted toward teenagers and children.
Why Are Kids Commonly Targeted by Instagram Scammers?
Before we dig into the common scams, let’s think about why kids are commonly targeted. First of all, social media is a super profitable space for scammers to operate. There were over 770 million dollars in reported social media fraud losses in 2021 alone. And this likely only represents a fraction of the true losses.
So technically, anyone can fall victim to a scam on Instagram, but kids and teens are especially susceptible. They tend to be more trusting than adults and are less likely to question unexpected requests for money or personal information. Not to mention, most of their social media interactions are with friends, so they may have their guard down even when they get a DM from a strange account.
All of this makes them a prime target for scammers. So now let’s get into exactly how these scammers might take advantage of kids on Instagram.
Common Instagram Scams to Be Aware of
While there are lots of different ways scammers can target kids, these are just a few of the common ones to give you an idea.
Sugar daddy DMs
If this one sounds weird, it’s because it is. This scam takes the form of a “wealthy adult” seeking some sort of relationship they are willing to pay for. They will DM your kid and promise free money in exchange for companionship, usually in the form of weekly payments or allowances.
This can go one of two ways. Some of these scammers will ask to borrow money under the false pretense of paying it back. In this case, the scammer is just after your money. Otherwise, these scams are actually predators who are looking to groom your child. Sugar daddy scams are known for being sexual in nature so it is extremely important to keep kids protected from this type of scam.
Sometimes a scammer will simply create a fake account and DM your kid, pretending to be someone else. Some scammers might impersonate a friend of your child’s, a celebrity or influencer that your child follows, or possibly someone of a similar age using Instagram as a dating app.
They could do this for a number of reasons. Maybe they just want to get personal information to hack into their accounts. But again, sometimes these scammers are actually predators trying to form a bond with your child, with their end goal being to target them in the real world.
This one’s a little tricky. Lots of legitimate brands and influencers on Instagram run reputable giveaways where you can actually win something. Everything’s on the up and up, nothing to worry about.
That’s until a scammer decides to take advantage of people who have entered these contests. Here’s how it works: say an influencer posts a picture for a giveaway and in order to enter the giveaway, their followers have to tag a friend in the comments. Your kid tags their bestie to enter, along with a slew of other followers doing the same. Then, scammers — with a fake account impersonating the influencer — message your kid and all the people from the comments and say “Congrats! You won my giveaway!”
And what comes next is the red flag: they’ll start asking for credit card information and other personal details. Most real giveaways won’t ask for payment information. But sometimes the excitement of winning something leads us to make silly mistakes, so kids might jump to respond before verifying the account who messaged them.
Taking it a step further from the fake giveaways, sometimes scammers will just create their own Instagram contests instead of going through a real brand or influencer. These are usually designed to get personal information from people who enter. So for example, a particular contest might require people to share their mother’s maiden name or the name of their first pet in order to enter. Then, this information will either be sold or used to hack into bank accounts.
Another popular scam is known as phishing. This is when your child is sent some sort of link to access their Instagram account. All it takes is your kid clicking on it and boom — the hackers are in. These links usually contain viruses or malware that hack into their account or sometimes even attack their devices.
A super important part of recognizing phishing scams is who it’s coming from. It can come from third-party accounts that seem legit, like “Instagram” claiming that you need to log back into your account. But phishing can also come from friends and family. Don’t worry — your friends and family aren’t trying to scam your kid. But scammers will hack into their friend’s account and impersonate them to get your kid to click their link. Imagine if a friend messaged your kid something like, “Hey! Can you vote for me in this contest for school? Just go to this link …” Seems harmless, right? That’s exactly what the scammer is hoping your kid will say.
Understandably, it can be difficult for children to recognize that they aren’t actually talking with their friends or that a familiar account has been compromised. Which means this scam is fairly easy to fall for sometimes.
Make money quick schemes
And last but not least, the make-money-quick scams. This is the one we’re all familiar with.
It’s the same song, but a different verse. In your kid’s DM’s or through the comments, they’ll find a pitch along the lines of “Just click this link, sign up for our program, and start making money instantly!” Or maybe instead of signing up for a program, it’s buying some fake product.
Just like the other ones we’ve gone over, the end result is your kid either losing money or giving away personal information to be used to hack their account. Unfortunately, this scheme tends to be enticing for older teens who are just looking to earn easy cash.
Protecting Your Kids from Instagram Scams
The internet can be a great place for kids to explore and learn new things, but it's also important to know how to stay safe online. And luckily, there are a few things parents can do to protect their kids. Sometimes, it’s all about education to prevent kids from falling for these scams in the first place. But there are also things parents can do if their kid does happen to accidentally get involved in a scam.
Let’s take a look at some of those things parents can do to help their kids!
Create a list of things to watch out for
One way parents can educate their kids about scams on Instagram is to create a list of common strange behaviors to look out for. Here are a few to get you started:
- Accounts with little to no historical activity.
- People asking to send money or gift cards.
- Links that are not recognizable
- Accounts or links asking for passwords or other personally identifiable information.
Instagram has outlined a list of things to watch out for when using Instagram. However, scammers are unfortunately getting smarter. So it’s important that both you and your children are always vigilant when using platforms like Instagram. It’s also important to teach them to recognize predatory behavior for situations that go beyond simple money scams.
Build trust around discussing internet activity
As a parent, a huge part of protecting your children and improving internet safety is building trust.
You want your child to feel comfortable coming to you if something online is making them feel strange. Pay attention to how you respond, because if you make them feel bad about their experiences, they are less likely to continue sharing things with you.
Having open conversations is a great first step toward trust. Kids will share more if their parents show support and interest in their activities. Then, later on, they’ll feel safe to share concerning things with you when they happen.
With that in mind, if you notice something worrisome on your child’s Instagram, it’s important not to dance around the issue. The earlier you can catch something, the less likely that it can escalate into a more serious issue.
A simple way to protect your family online is by using two-factor authentication (2FA).
2FA is an extra layer of security that requires not just a password but also a second piece of information, like a code from a phone or email. That way, even if someone has your password, they can't access your account without also having your phone or email.
This can be super crucial to preventing your children’s account from being hacked. Because sometimes kids slip up and it’s possible they might give their information to a hacker. So if they do fall for a scam, 2FA is like a great safety net that will prevent the hacker from actually getting access.
And yes — sometimes 2FA is a hassle to start using. But in the long run, it’s worth the extra effort. So we strongly recommend using it anywhere and everywhere you can.
Help Keep Your Children Safe Online Using Bark
Another simple way to protect your children from predatory behavior on Instagram is by simply monitoring internet usage. That way parents can try and catch the red flags that their kids might not see themselves.
But that can be a big task to take on yourself. Most parents don’t have the time to go through their kid’s phone looking for potential Instagram scams or generally strange online behavior. That’s why Bark is your best solution!
Bark is a parental control tool that makes it possible for parents to get alerts when their children receive strange messages or show signs of unusual behavior. This includes money scams as well as predatory behavior and inappropriate sexual content. It can also help by tracking the types of content your child is engaging with.
See for yourself how Bark can help protect your kid and try Bark for free today!
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.