I don’t know about you, but I open Instagram to look at cool photos of pets, not to make a fortune via suspicious claims of riches by strangers.
Despite this, following someone whose photos I liked resulted in a very peculiar message.
It’s possible I waved goodbye to a path to untold riches. Maybe if I’d stayed the course I’d now have my own “Become a millionaire in six months or less” e-book.
However, it’s more likely I dodged a Bitcoin scam. The kind of scam where I’d have to use screenshots of my bank account slowly being drained of all available funds for my next blog post.
Shall we take a look?
Introducing my good friend, Steven McBitcoin
This is the message that greeted me from my newest Instagram contact, who for ease of reference I’ve dubbed Steven McBitcoin:
Steven: Hello Good day Are you interested in bitcoin mining?
I mean, oh boy am I ever. Possibly not quite in the way they were expecting, though. I decided to go with the “I don’t know anything, tell me more approach” with the vaguely non-committal:
Me: Hello possibly, how come? Steven: I’m willing to teach you about bitcoin, coach you on how to invest and earn your profits as soon as possible. With a minimum investment of $1,000 I guarantee you of making $10,000 directly into your bank account, bitcoin wallet or any withdrawal method of your choice. Understood?
Well now, that’s quite the promise. $10,000 dollars from $1,000 guaranteed? What could possibly go wrong…apart from everything?
How do I make this kind of money?
The messages continue to rumble on. Now we’re getting into the nuts and bolts of how this stack of digital currency shall be mine.
Me: Where would I invest and how? Steven: Do you have cashapp, coinbase, crypto.com or Trust wallet?
It appears I’ve reached the “pretend you have one of the options mentioned and see what he says next” stage of the proceedings.
Me: Cashapp Steven: OK good Now go to your cashapp main page and send me the screenshot so I can give you direct guidelines on how to get paid. You got it?
Generally speaking, sending people screenshots of the inside of your payment or bank portals is not a great idea—you can give away a lot about yourself.
This is also often used as a distraction by people who simultaneously ask for other details, such as logins. Consider it a distant cousin of the “please turn off your anti-virus while installing the dolphin.exe file you got from Limewire” technique.
The pinky-swear of digital currency
I wanted to know a little more about the guaranteed return of $10,000. That’s quite the generous deal. Some people would say it’s almost too good to be true.
I am absolutely one of those people.
Me: i have a question. How do you guarantee that i make $10,000 from $1,000? is there a time limit on when i should hit the 10k? what happens if i don't or I end up with less? is the guarantee in writing or anything?
Let’s see what cast-iron agreement he has in store. I simply cannot wait to find out how good this is. Getting it in writing? Of course I’ll be getting it in writing.
Steven: You profit is safe and guaranteed that I can very well assure you and you'll also get your money in less than 2 hours You won't end up less than but instead even an higher profit from your trade. I need you to believe me when I say that you have absolutely nothing to worryabout, just follow my lead and you'll be the one to thank me later OK. Send me the screenshot let's proceed with your trade now.
Turns out the guarantee is “dude, trust me”. At this point, in the best documentary tradition, I made my excuses and left (by which I mean I blocked and reported him).
Notice how insistently pushy he becomes towards the end of the conversation. I imagine he’s already moved on to beguiling the next victim with tales of gigantic Bitcoin victory. Hopefully they block and report Mr McBitcoin too.
Common Instagram Bitcoin scams
Sadly, people promising get rich quick Bitcoin schemes on Instagram are a growing market of garbage and dross. There is currently no end of people on Facebook bemoaning the loss of their account to any one of the scams listed below:
- Big wins, short timespan: Claims that you’ll make big returns on smaller investments rapidly are a red flag, as is pressure to transfer funds as quickly as possible. If someone you know suddenly starts talking about all the money they’re making thanks to their “Bitcoin mentor”—run away. It’s another very common scam related to compromised accounts.
- Send me the money: On a similar note, asking you to go off and buy digital currency then send it to another person’s wallet to “invest” are likely going to get you nothing but an empty wallet.
- Held hostage to cryptocurrency: Many videos regarding wild claims of Bitcoin success are actually incredibly creepy hostage videos. This is where people previously scammed out of their cash are made to film promos to keep the scam going.
- A change in circumstances: If you’re asked to change your login details / email address to something somebody else has given you, you’ll simply be locked out of your account and it’ll be used to spam others.
- When profit becomes taxing: Here’s one which started with a $1,000 deposit—just like the messages I received—and actually did finish up with a supposed profit of $15,000. Unfortunately for the victim, the scammer then asked for a $15,000 “tax payment” in order to release the now stolen funds. The thousand dollars are not coming back.
If you receive a get rich quick missive, you may wish to report it and block the sender. You can do this on Instagram by selecting the “…” next to the Follow button, then choosing Report > report account > posting content that shouldn’t be on Instagram > scam or fraud.
At the risk of resurrecting the “if it’s too good to be true…” dead horse, it has a fair bit of merit here. If someone had the secret to huge amounts of wealth, they wouldn’t be sharing it with random people on Instagram. Sadly, the only people making bank from this kind of deal or offer are the scammers pulling the strings in the first place.