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Instagram scam: It starts with your friend asking you a question

The next thing you know, your account is taken over. You have no access to your pictures or your account.

Trevor Rose is one of the millions of people who have an Instagram account. Like most of us, he not only posts pictures but uses the social media app to chat with friends.

Unfortunately, a chat conversation he had with a known friend a few months ago ended up with his account being taken over.

It started with this question from his friend:

I was trying to log in to my Instagram account on my new phone and they ask me to find someone to help me receive a help link and your name was randomly selected. Instagram will text you...okay?

“It would send that person a link that you would click and verify that you know them,” said Trevor Rose.

When he clicked the link, it pulled up a page to put in his login and password.

“It was branded just like Instagram's website, logo, verbiage, everything. Being a Millennial I should have known to look at the URL, the www, and make sure it has Instagram in it
then I got locked out of my Instagram account,” said Rose.

It's bad enough to be locked out of your account, with no access to your pictures, or your information. What's worse, is knowing you can't warn everyone that this conversation isn't you.

“This person once they take over your account, they start posting stories on your account, stories, and reels and sending your friends, family, and colleagues messages impersonating you,” said Rose.

The messages often include fake links for charities, investments, or accounts. Your contacts think they're helping you out, but really all the money is going to the scammer who took over your legitimate account.

This happens over and over and you can't stop it.

“It's a parasite. With Instagram, every path they give you to recover your accounts, delete your accounts, nothing seems to be working,” said Rose.

He followed all the steps on the Instagram help center page, but weeks went by with no help.

More of his friends and family were getting caught up in the scammer posing as him, some even gave the scammer money.  It took two months before Instagram was able to give Trevor access back to his account.


“Unfortunately, the reality is social media companies are typically understaffed when it comes to servicing users, remember, users are not customers, users are part of the product,” said Joseph Steinberg, Cyber Security expert.

Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter are free to use. Which means you're part of the product, not the profit.

“The most important thing anyone can do to protect their accounts, social media, and bank account is to be suspicious. Assume that criminals are out to get you. If you assume then you don't have to act paranoid, but you won't trust requests without verifying them and spending a second to look at them,” said Rose.


Get a message that seems off? Text, call or reach out to the person on another platform and verify what is going on.

Get ahead of the scammers. Don't rely on just your password. Use multi-factor authentication for every app login.

“Multi-authentication is proving who you are by using two kinds of factors. One may be knowing a secret like a password the other may be a fingerprint or some sort of biometrics. The third way would be something you own, you know the secret and you have your phone, that is safer than just using the password alone,” said Steinberg.

A lot of apps have their own multi-factor authentication, but to be safe, you can get an authenticator app that will create extra protection for you every time you use any app.


They're free. Several tech sites have tested these apps. You can read the various reviews from tech writers.

NY TIMES: Best 2-Factor Authentication



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