Science

Report uncovers 'money-flipping' Instagram scam

27 Aug 2016 | By Shiladitya
The Instagram money-flipping scam

A report published by ZeroFox, an online security company specializing in social media, uncovered how Instagram is being used by 'money-flipping' scammers to leech money off their victims.

These scammers are particularly targeting followers of the pages of financial institutions and banks.

In context: The Instagram money-flipping scam

Money-flippingWhat is 'money-flipping'?

'Money-flipping' is a term referring to a racket in which scammers or criminals convince victims to provide them with access to their funds.

The scammers first assure the victims of the legitimacy of their operations, and promise the victims manifold returns on their funds for a share in the profit.

Then the scammers vanish with the funds, leaving the victim penniless.

Banks cover victims' costs

Banks often end up compensating 'money-flipping' victims for their losses. In one instance, one of ZeroFox's clients, a major US bank, had to put together a six-man team to deal with money-flipping after it lost over $1 million to victims of money-flipping.
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27 Aug 2016Report uncovers 'money-flipping' Instagram scam

The extent of the Instagram 'money-flipping' scam

The reportThe extent of the Instagram 'money-flipping' scam

ZeroFox created a machine learning algorithm to detect scam posts based on trigger words like "money" and pictures of cash, receipts etc.

It analyzed 2 million out of the 30 billion odd posts on Instagram and found 4,574 unique instances of the scam across 1,386 different accounts.

It also found that for every scam account Instagram closes, three more pop up in its place.

Security issuesDoes Instagram have a system in place to stop this?

Facebook-owned Instagram uses a machine learning approach quite like the one used by ZeroFox.

However, it has had little success in slowing the growth of scam posts - with only one in five scam posts being taken down over a 45-day period.

80% of the scam posts detected by ZeroFox were over 45 days old, indicating that few were being detected or reported.

Social media and scams

"Money flipping is more prevalent on Instagram, but there are different scams on different networks. The whole idea of social media — the trust, the scale, the connectivity — makes social media ripe for targeting by scammers," said ZeroFox co-founder Evan Blair.