As a general rule, anyone who posts pictures of money and talks about investment opportunities is probably trouble. Those are the hallmarks of the “money flipper” scam, a criminal scheme that’s been troubling Instagram for years. The accounts boast a mysterious investment system, posting cash and other luxury goods as proof that it works. Then, in a direct message, they’ll offer to cut followers in on the deal. Sometimes the offer is to split a money order, other times it’s for access to an empty debit card account — but either way, the scammer abruptly walks off with a few hundred dollars and the mark is left to pick up the tab.
It’s a simple scam, but it’s become remarkably popular on Instagram. A report released today by the threat intelligence firm ZeroFox found a total of 4,574 unique instances of the scam on Instagram since 2013, spread across 1,386 different accounts. That’s just a fraction of the 2 million posts scanned by ZeroFOX, and an even smaller fraction of the 30 billion posts on the platform itself. Still, it suggests the scam has found a persistent niche on Instagram, and according to ZeroFox, it could present a long-term problem for any financial companies looking to use Instagram for more than just marketing.