According to a new revelation from Motherboard, Instagram scammers have built a lucrative “banning” scheme. Some fraudsters will get any Instagram account you choose, friend or foe, blocked for roughly $60, and scammers often make even more money on the backend by assisting targeted people in regaining access to their accounts.
According to interviews and materials examined by Motherboard, the procedure entails impersonating a target (their name, photo, and bio) with a verified account, then reporting the target as an impersonator to get them banned. The strategy appears to work as long as the target has a human in their profile photo.
Other individuals they spoke to had their accounts suspended after being reported for breaking Instagram’s regulations on suicide and self-harm, a type of content the business has tried to become more proactive about combating in recent years, according to Motherboard. These bans could be the result of a number of scripts that spam Instagram’s reporting mechanisms without exceeding the app’s limits (around 40 reports, apparently).
According to at least one of the persons Motherboard spoke with, the business of banning people is quite lucrative:
In a Telegram message to Motherboard, War, the pseudonymous user who offers the banned service, said that banning “is pretty much a full-time job lol.” In less than a month, they claimed to have made over $5,000 selling Instagram bans.
It also doesn’t hurt that many of the companies that provide banning services also provide account recovery services, which may cost anywhere from $3,500 to $4,000. Some users claimed to receive offers of account assistance shortly after their accounts were disabled, and that the Instagram account that reported them was frequently following the Instagram account that offered assistance.
Instagram did not respond to a request for comment right away, but the firm did tell Motherboard that it was looking into sites that offered to ban services and that users should report anybody they suspect of doing so.
If you suspect your account has been disabled or banned, Instagram’s Help Center gives information on how to reactivate it.