A Conversation With an Instagram Scammer

Happy holiday season 2020, folks. The days are short, the Zoom calls are long, and scammers are working harder than ever to separate you from whatever you have left. One such fellow set his sights on me this weekend, and I’m sharing the details here in hopes it will stay fresh in your mind in case you or your loved ones are among their future targets.

I was mindlessly flipping through podcast stats and social media accounts for a few minutes — fine, it was more than a few — when I got an Instagram follower notification from a friend I’ve known for years now. This stood out because we’ve already been mutuals for years, and it was also the second identical follow notification I’d seen from this person in a few days. People disable and reactivate accounts, lose passwords, get hacked, and God knows what else. I didn’t think much of going back to their private account and requesting to follow back. They accepted the request a few minutes later.

I received DMs right away.

Person: Hi
Person: How are you doing

This was unusual, but not impossible. This is a nice person and we just refriended.

Me: Howdy. How y’all holding up?

I was uncomfortable and turned into Woody from Toy Story, apparently.

Person: I’m doing good and extremely happy for my life, I wonder if you have heard about the Christmas and New year bonus program yet.

It was almost clear what was going on, but there was a weird shred of credibility because the person’s family had recently been exposed to Covid, and indeed that’s what I was asking about. This is “how they get ya.”

It would have driven me crazy not knowing how they explained this program. So we continued.

Me: Nope not familiar
Suspicious Person: The program is made by the United Nations in conjunction with our new president Joe Biden and World Bank to help people in terms of needs for Christmas and new year I already apply for the program and I get $30,000 from the program and I don’t have to pay it back.

I went ahead and let my real friend know via Facebook comment they had a scammer account going around using their photos. Not that this was for them to deal with, but the more eventual reports against this, the better.

But how often do you get a live one on the line like this? I decided to waste their time for a while.

Me: How did Joe Biden take action before he took office?

Silence for a while. I was worried I lost them.

Me: In any case, I’m glad you got the money you need. I wish someone would help us that way.
Scammer: Have you heard of Mr Attorney Morton before?

No, but I think you just named my new solo album.

Me: That name sounds a little familiar. I don’t remember for sure.
Scammer: His the one who did the application for me and help me to get my bonus money for the Christmas and the New Year. she (?) is honest, trustworthy and God fearing woman. Should I forward you his (?) text number so that you can apply ?
Me: I am also afraid of God, but I’m not very good at texting. Is it possible for you to help me with this?
Scammer: It’s just a little steps you are going to take after texting
Me: Well that sounds good then.
Scammer: Here is their claim agent number: +1(***) ***–**** just text them now and let them know you also ready to check for the christmas and new year bonus money.

I’d post the number without a care in the world, but I don’t want this getting auto-flagged or something.

Me: I’m trying to text now. (not so much)
Scammer: Okay
Scammer: Just keep me updated

My casual friend is very invested in this, suddenly.

Me: That’s odd they’re not replying. Maybe because it’s Sunday night?
Scammer: His going to reply you
Me: Okay so the claim agent for the attorney will help me apply to Joe Biden’s program with the United Nations because it’s Christmas?
Scammer: Yes

Can’t argue with that.

Scammer: Have you text him and has he reply you
Me: I texted but I’m not getting anything back.
Me: He must be off for the weekend.
Scammer: Hope you copy the number I gave you
Scammer: Very well
Me: I’m sure I got the number right. he must not be working tonight.
Scammer: Okay because I just text him now that I referred someone to him now and he reply me immediately (snippy snippy!)
Me: Who Joe Biden?

Surely this is falling apart now, right?

Scammer: No the claiming agent.

Guess not.

Me: Oh man I think I texted Joe by mistake. I hope I didn’t wake him up. (it was like 4:30 PM)
Scammer: No
Scammer: Text the number and wait for his reply
Me: Did your daughter Stephanie help you with this? Maybe that’s where I went wrong. (Stephanie is pretend)
Scammer: I’m a friend of mine refer me as well

I figured it was time to push it. Also, I was getting bored.

Me: Okay he asked for my SSN and some other info so I sent it over. How long do you think it will take?
Scammer: +1(***) ***-8051 and you are sure this is the number you are texting
Me:
Me: Oh no. Oh no oh no. I texted +1(***) ***-8052!! AND I GAVE THEM MY INFO!! Oh God! I think I got scammed!
Scammer: That’s a wrong number Sir
Scammer: Screenshot what they have been telling you

Me: But they have my info now!!! What should I do?!?
Scammer: They can never do anything with your information.

Is there a scammer’s code I don’t know about or something? I like how he went to bat for this guy.

Me: Oh my goodness really? I thought that was dangerous.
Scammer: Not really
Scammer: Let me see the screenshot of your chats with them
Me: I’m actually not sure how to screenshot but they said they just needed my personal information and they were super glad I contacted them and they actually offered me $35,000 so maybe I should go with their offer. Not dangerous like you said right?
Scammer: Text the number I gave you so I can help you speak to him as welll
Me: I don’t know I mean $35,000 is a lot. Do you think your guy could get me maybe $40,000?
Me: They said I could only do one program. Not both. So I mean your guy is going to have to increase his offer I think.
Scammer: Yes
Scammer: I will also speak to him on your behalf which have did already
Me: Great in that case I’m leaning in your direction again. Let me take this number back to the guys at 8052 and see if they want to counter at all.
Scammer: The one I gave you is 8051
Me: Right you guys are at 8051. Bad news though, the guys at 8052 say they can go as high as $42,500. That seems like the highest offer on the table right now so…
Scammer: I will want you to text the numver I gave you because you for higher amount as you want since you have been qualified
Me: Do you think they could give me that in iTunes gift cards?

Idk, is it illegal to scam them?

Scammer: This is there list
Scammer:
You $750 Pay For $30,000
You Pay $1000 For $50,000
You Pay $2000 For $100,000
(This goes on for 10 more rows. I like to think they have it hanging on a laminated sheet on a cubicle wall)
Scammer: So you choose any amount you want
Me: How do the taxes work on this because I’ve really messed this up in the past.
Scammer: The taxes are for the delivery fee depending on the amount you choose.

The larger amounts are more big bags with dollar signs on them, so that tracks.

Scammer: Have you text the 8051
Me: Mr. Horton? Yes.
Scammer: Mr Attorney Morton (he stuck with Morton. Well played.)
Scammer: Text him so he can get back to you
Me: I think I used my last text on 8052. You think they’ll still be doing this in January?

Damn, you. 2003 Sprint packages.

Scammer: Yes I think but that will be on another program

I’d hate for another associate to get his commission.

Me: 😆 you remember when you’d only get so many texts each month? That was ridiculous. I mean it’s just data right? It’s all data. What difference does it make?
Scammer: Send me your number so I can give him so he can text you himself
Me: Oh in that case you can give him my number. You have it.

I mean, right?

Scammer: It should be in forward text that’s why I said you send to me here
Me: Oh (?) alright. 626–466–3293 (links to explanatory article).

So, based on the way this went, I think it’s safe to assume they’re still chatting with a crazed reply bot. I did my part, wasted some of their time they would have spent targeting the desperate and the elderly, and reported the account. Watch out for holiday government program messages from “friends.” If I find another opportunity like this, I will absolutely try to get them to call me and put it on the podcast.

Ever done anything like this? I love hearing the stories.