Impersonation scams on Instagram rise 155 percent in the past year

New research from Lloyds Bank has revealed that Instagram has seen a 155 percent spike in impersonation fraud in the past year.

According to the research, the uplift in tricksters can be contrasted with falling levels across Facebook and Snapchat, which were down 58 percent and 84 percent respectively.

Impersonation scams involve fraudsters sending requests for money, pretending to be a family member or friend whilst lying about phones being lost or damaged to trick victims.

The average amount lost to scammers was nearly £336 for Instagram in the year up to March 2022, with 18-24 year olds being the most likely to fall victim to fraudsters.

“Social media is now intimately woven into our lives – it’s how we stay in touch with people, see what’s in the news, treat ourselves to something new and keep up with influencers,” Fraud Prevention Director at Lloyds Bank, Liz Ziegler commented.

“Sophisticated organised criminal gangs know this, and are ready to adapt their deceptive methods instantly, lurking around every virtual corner to try and part you from your hard-earned cash,” she added.

The spike in impersonation fraud also coincides with a rise in romance scams, which generally impact users around the age of 45-54, according to Lloyds. The money lost is also much higher, averaging £15,957 per victim.

Tim Sadler, Co-founder and CEO for Tessian, offers insight into how individuals can protect themselves against these kinds of scams.

He comments: “Some of the most common and successful phishing scams impersonate someone in your “known” network – friends, family, colleagues that you trust. Hackers exploit these relationships, knowing full well that people are much more likely to click on a link if they think it’s coming from someone they know. These impersonation scams are also effective because they introduce emotion to the decision-making progress.

“It’s so easy for a threat actor to adopt a fake identity or persona on social media, and with so much publicly available information about people’s personal and professional life readily available online, they can make their impersonations appear very believable.

“As cybercriminals use social media channels as their hunting grounds, people should think carefully about what they’re posting online and practice safe cybersecurity behaviours. This includes creating strong, unique passwords and scrutinising messages that demand payment or have a sense of urgency. Always verify the request by contacting the person directly before responding.”