What’s old is new again in a resurgent social media scam affecting Facebook and Instagram Messenger users.
In recent weeks, there has been an increase in fake profiles that message Facebook users through Instagram. The scammer will duplicate a real profile using the Facebook profile picture of that account and send messages to the Facebook friends of the real profile using the cross-platform messaging feature on Instagram. Typically, the initial message will be “Hello, how are you?” If you reply to the message, you may be asked about a grant program or specifically a COVID relief program. The scammer may provide a link or email address for more information.
How to identify it
There are several ways to easily identify if the message sent to you is legitimate without opening the message. The profile name will usually be misspelled. There may be an extra letter or two in the last name or at the end, which makes it easy to miss if you’re not careful. The message is sent from an Instagram account, so check your friend’s Instagram profile picture to make sure it matches the one in the message. The scammer will use the Facebook profile picture to create the account. Again, this is another thing that’s easy to overlook since you get the message on Facebook Messenger.
Since the scammer creates a new Instagram profile, there are no security measures on your account that can specifically prevent this from happening. You should always use two-factor authentication, Facebook protection, and frequent password changes to avoid further issues. What you can do is make two changes to stop the scammer from messaging you and your Facebook friends.
1.) Disable cross-platform messaging. This is the feature to send messages to your Facebook messenger from Instagram. In Messenger go to preferences – manage message delivery – how you receive message requests and in the “Other people” section select “do not receive message requests” for others on Instagram
2.) Change who can see your Facebook friends. In your Facebook settings, go to settings – privacy – how people can find and contact you and change who can see your friends list to “only me”.
While there’s no way to completely avoid spam and scammers on social media, you can protect your accounts and ignore posts that seem unusual.