9 Signs an Instagram Ad Can’t Be Trusted

Enhance your detective skills so you don't fall victim to these common scams.

Social media is riddled with advertisements for everything from clothing to travel discounts, to food and medications. With the abundance of intricate technological tools we have at our fingertips, it’s pretty simple to create a fake ad that impersonates influencers or even businesses. These ads often promote free items and massive discounts, just by inputting your information. However, these fake advertisements are just a front for collecting your information to sell it off, or even use that information to hack your accounts. Before typing out your personal information, always make sure that it is going to a reputable source. Here are a few tips on how to spot an Instagram ad that can’t be trusted. Make sure to also check out these cybersecurity secrets hackers don’t want you to know.

No contact address on their website

When you click on a brand website, there is typically a place to contact customer service. Whether that contact link is an email, phone number, or mailing address, there is always some sort of headquarters, even if it’s just the creator’s basement. If you are unable to trace the brand back to someone or someplace, then it most likely doesn’t exist. Don’t miss these 7 alarming things a hacker can do when they have your email address.

The URL doesn’t begin with https://

A link beginning with https:// means that the website has an SSL certificate. This means that all website traffic is encrypted, secure, and cannot be read. “This prevents third parties from hacking into the communication between your website and the user,” explains Rob Powell. “When your website has an active SSL certificate the application protocol (the very first part of a URL) changes from HTTP to HTTPS.” Learn how “private” private browsing mode actually is.

The image seems a little skewed

The aspect ratio of the image may seem a little off, a specific portion of the image may seem blurry or the brand watermark is in an odd location. This could be an attempt to crop the original watermarked image. “A quick google search using the image could reveal if it is actually the content of the brand/page promoting it or plagiarized from elsewhere,” says Akram Tariq Khan, CMO of YourLibaas. Check out these common online scams and how to avoid them.

It asks for your credit card information

“A major red flag is if the link asks for your credit card information before obtaining an email or other contact/shipping information,” declares Kenda Laney. If the link comes up and immediately asks for your card or payment information, it is likely a scam aiming to steal your credit card information. Make sure to read up on times you should never use your credit card for payment.

No sponsored logo

You may have noticed that ads on Instagram are marked with a sponsored logo up at the top and #ad in the caption. Many of fake advertisements include links to purchase but are not tagged as ads officially on Instagram. Learn what it means to restrict on Instagram and how you can do it.

There are very few hashtags

Brands on Instagram will use as many hashtags as possible to reach more people. Alex Perkins, Founder of All The Stuff explains that if the ad does not use a single hashtag, it may be because they don’t want the post to circle back to the original brand to find out they have stolen their product. Don’t miss these clear signs you’re about to be hacked.

The ad is too good to be true

“Imagine seeing a Rayban that cost $1,” explains Samantha Moss, Editor and Content Ambassador at Romantific. “It’s mind-blowing. Before availing it, ask yourself, would it be possible that an original Rayban will cost $1?” Many scammers entice users with the money-saving aspect of advertising since most people will jump at the opportunity to save a few dollars. They know that many consumers can’t resist a good deal. Protect yourself and make sure you’re following these rules to prevent yourself from becoming a target to online scammers.

Check the ratio of followers to engagement

Have you ever come across accounts that have thousands of followers, but the posts have hardly any engagement? It seems a bit suspicious, right? “These accounts buy fake followers just to look authentic,” claims Susan Thompson, Digital Marketing Manager at ToppCasinoBonus. “But buying likes and comments on each post is not easy. So, I would recommend not proceeding further.” See these signs that a shopping site is fake and about to steal your money.

You are unable to comment on the photo

A dead giveaway that an Instagram ad is counterfeit is that a user can’t comment on certain words or may not even be able to post a comment altogether. Very few businesses choose to turn off comments on their ads so disable comments could be a red flag. “I’ve seen ads before where you aren’t even allowed to comment on the word “customer service” because the company is trying to prevent you from complaining about their poor customer service,” explained Sturgeon Christie, CEO of Second Skin Audio. Next, check out these signs that an Amazon seller can’t be trusted.


Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.