Instagram is to 2013 what Facebook was to 2005. If you are one of Instagram’s 150 million users, then life is usually pretty rosy on the site (I especially like those wrinkle-erasing/under-eye bag zapping/line softening uber-flattering Instagram filters). But keep in mind that there’s an emerging dark underbelly in Instagram-land—while the site is not as prone to hoax/copycat/scam accounts as Facebook or Twitter, such things still exist. Users who reveal their email addresses to these scam Instagram accounts may be at risk of cyber criminals who will harvest their email addresses and then sell them for spamming purposes. Retail brands that have been impersonated by Instagram copycat scammers include JetBlue, Target, Lululemon, Chipotle, Best Buy, H&M, Forever 21, Starbucks and Zara.

Here are some ways to help tell that an Instagram account is “fake”:

  • The account name ends in “ig” or “giveaways” (e.g. DeltaGiveaways)
  • They ask you for your password or other personal information such as your email address, phone number, home address, credit card number, etc.
  • They promise you a free gift, gift card or voucher for the first x-number of followers (for example, a copycat hoax Lulumelon Instagram account was offering the first 20,000 followers who re-posted the photo three free Lululemon items of their choice)
  • They ask you to click on shortened URLs