Instagram has become the UK’s newest battleground for identity theft scams, with reports up 155% in the past year according to new research.
The Lloyds Bank statistics come as pressure mounts on social media companies to take action against scams and fraud. A duty of care to protect their users from fraud is enshrined in the Online Security Bill introduced in Parliament last month.
Instagram users under the age of 25 were the most likely to fall victim to identity theft scams, in which criminals pretend to be someone they trust, such as a family member or friend, to ask for money. They usually claim that their phone has been lost or damaged to explain why they are using a new number.
The average amount lost to scammers on these platforms ranged from £336 on Instagram to £602 on Snapchat.
Criminal gangs “are ready to instantly adapt their deceptive methods,” said Liz Ziegler, director of fraud prevention at Lloyds.
Reflecting the versatility of fraudsters, the upsurge in impersonation scams on Instagram has been accompanied by a steep decline on other platforms. Reports for stablemate Meta Facebook were down 58%, with an even higher 84 per drop on Snapchat.
A separate study by trade association UK Finance found that more than 50% of 18-34 year olds surveyed had sent money or shared personal information to identity theft scammers. WhatsApp, also owned by Meta, is another growing channel for such attacks.
Criminals often move between online platforms in scams. A US-based investor lost $21,000 to scammers who started a conversation in an investment group on Facebook, before taking the individual to a chat group on the messaging app Telegram, where he was targeted by other scammers who ended up taking another $5,000.
The original scammer also used an Instagram profile to impersonate a genuine investor to further hone his credentials, even going so far as to send a picture of an altered driver’s license as proof of his credentials. identification.
Scams have increased during the pandemic, with lockdowns pushing people to spend more time online. The Online Safety Bill would impose a legal obligation on major internet platforms and search engines to protect their users from scams, including those in the form of paid advertisements.
The growing threat of legislative pressure led to the formation last April of Stop Scams UK, originally an alliance of major banks and telecommunications companies which has grown to include major tech platforms such as Google and Meta .
“We know there is still a long way to go to stop scams at the source,” said Simon Miller, policy and communications director at Stop Scams UK. “The best solutions will come from responsible businesses working together across all sectors to stop the crooks, backed by appropriate government action.”
Stop Scams UK has also found that consumers are not only confronted with online scams: a high number of fraudsters continue to use phone calls. The group said this month that its 159 suspicious call reporting number had received 75,000 reports since it was set up in late September.