It’s almost a given that any social service, network or app that attracts a large number of users will eventually be facing the spam and scam problem.
It happened to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and many others, and Instagram – the popular photo sharing application and the network of users that grew up around it – is no exception.
Symantec researcher Satnam Narang shared the example of a spam campaign that he encountered when a user commented on a photo of his, saying that the Best Buy was giving away $100 gift cards for free to Instagram users.
The offered shortened link takes the users to a page where they are asked to input their cell phone number in order to win the card, and only if they scroll all the way down will they be able to notice the fine print saying that prior to qualifying for their prize they will be presented with optional third party offers, and that they need not to complete the offers in order to qualify.
The third party “offers” look like this, and is not really clear what exactly they are offering:
Notice that the offers can be skipped without inputing the information, but the links to do so are difficult to notice as they are small text links put in the upper right corner and designed to blend in with the background.
The collected information is likely to be used for future spamming, but it’s likely that users have also unknowingly agreed to subscribe to a pricy service.
“If you have given your cell phone number up during one of these scams, be sure to check your next phone bill to see if there are any unwanted charges on it for some kind of subscription service,” says Narang.
He also advises users to report these type of offers by clicking on the wheel icon in the top-right corner of their Instagram profile and reporting the user that posted them.
As we haven’t seen an overwhelming amount of spam hitting Instagram users, I guess that some of the changes the service has introduced do work.