Spam Accounts on Instagram: Why?

Here’s why there are spam accounts on Instagram:

The primary reason you will see a spam account on Instagram is that someone is trying to sell you something. 

More subtle approaches use spam accounts to try to drive traffic to certain content creators or content. 

Ultimately, bots can do a lot of different things on Instagram, and that variety pushes spam.

So if you want to learn all about how spam accounts work on Instagram, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right in!

Spam Accounts on Instagram: Why? (Everything to Know)

Do Spam Account Ads Really Work on Instagram? (3 Ways)

Sad female checking phone content in the night at home

For the most part, spam accounts are all about the bottom line.

Some are trying to directly sell you things or get money from you.

Others take indirect approaches, but eventually, it always comes back to money.

The majority of accounts will try to sell you a product or a service.

Plenty will ask for donations or for you to sign up to a mailing list.

Outside of direct sales, there are scams, promotional techniques, data mining bots, and more. 

The ultimate answer to the question is that there are a lot of spam accounts on Instagram because there are a lot of reasons to make spam accounts on Instagram.

#1 Selling Products and Services

Woman checks out phone with serious face

Electronic spam has largely been developed for the purpose of selling stuff. 

You’ve had spam emails. 

You’ve seen spam ads across the internet. This is not new.

With Instagram, a lot of the spam accounts are promoting a specific good or service.

They might try to sell you a dietary supplement, push a pornographic website or get you to change your car insurance company.

There are no specific rules here.

The point is that the spam accounts will follow you and try to communicate with you.

The entire point is to promote that specific thing they are selling.

Even if these spam accounts have a low success rate, they’re very cheap to make and maintain. So, they don’t have to get very many sales to generate a profit.

#2 Asking for Donations

Glass jar with dollars and the word donation paper label.

The bots don’t even always try to sell you things. 

Other times, they ask for cold, hard cash.

These donation requests come in a lot of different shapes and sizes.

Some of them will impersonate respected charities. 

When you follow the link and donate, it goes to the spammers rather than the good cause you are trying to support.

In other cases, a spam account will tell a sob story and ask for people to help. 

You’ve probably seen real donation links for people trying to pay medical bills or save a local business.

There are plenty of real scenarios where donations help a lot. But, with Instagram spam accounts, it’s usually less legitimate.

In some cases, bots are used to ask for honest donations. 

The problem is that it’s difficult to tell what is and isn’t legitimate based on these accounts alone. 

If a spam account inspires you to donate to an organization you trust or care about, try going through their official website instead of following the Instagram link.

#3 Collecting Collaborators

Serious woman browsing internet online biting lips in living room

Not all spam is about getting quick cash.

Sometimes, it’s more valuable to get people to sign up for something.

Maybe it’s an email list. 

Maybe it’s a petition. 

The range of possibilities is pretty huge.

What matters is that there is no direct sale or monetary transaction with these bots.

They want your attention more than your money (at least for now). 

In plenty of cases, you’ll be hit with ads or requests for money after you sign up, so the end goal is often the same.

What Can Tinder Scammers Do With Your Phone Number?

young asian woman looks tired stares at laptop screen

There is a reason why scammers try to get your phone number on Tinder.

Be super cautious.

At a minimum, a scammer can sell your information and lead to you getting spam calls and advertisements that are annoying at worst. 

More successful scammers can use your phone number and personal information to steal just about anything from you.

There’s not really a ceiling on how bad it can get.

Learn all about what a tinder scammer can do with your phone number here.

Do Instagram Spam Accounts Run Scams Too?

Young woman wearing eyeglasses sitting in cafe looking worried while looking at cellphone

Spam accounts serve many goals on Instagram.

Some of them are on the relatively benign side, even if they are annoying.

Others are outright malicious.

Plenty of spam accounts are dedicated to the practice of social engineering. 

Typically, the accounts are run by bots, and the goal is pretty simple.

They want to get information out of you.

They will follow you, like your stuff, and try to interact with you in any way they can. 

The bots will even carry on conversations.

Through those conversations, they will try to get personal information out of you. 

Plenty of bots are obvious and hold low success rates, but some are surprisingly sophisticated.

The bots successfully steal information.

That information is either sold or used to steal identities.

It’s really the same kind of scam you see across the internet.

Since it proves lucrative, you can see why it contributes to the endless spam on Instagram these days.


Phishing can be considered a form of social engineering, but it’s more specific. 

Some spam accounts (and the bots running them) are really dedicated to phishing.

They’re trying to get account and password information out of you.

A lot of phishing scams will impersonate respectable companies, celebrities, or even people you know.

They’ll ask you to confirm information. 

When you do, it turns out that information can be used to get into your account (and not necessarily just your Instagram account). 

Once they gain control, they change the passwords and contact information, and they rule your account moving forward.

When this successfully steals bank accounts or other important accounts, it’s pretty devastating. 

Phishing is so prolific that it’s worth spending a minute thinking about this particular type of spam.

Never give out account information on Instagram.

It’s just a safer way to use the platform.

How Do Spam Accounts Impact Instagram Algorithms?

Beautiful woman using smartphone outdoor in urban street.

Scams and advertisements aside, spam accounts can still generate value for a lot of businesses and/or people on Instagram. 

Basically, the spam accounts are used to influence Instagram algorithms and steer real traffic in a desired direction.

Here’s how it works.

Instagram uses a proprietary set of algorithms to govern how content is promoted on the site. 

So, no one outside of the company truly knows how it works, but in at least some respects, it’s similar to other social media networks.

That is to say, things that are popular get promoted more.

So, to jumpstart popularity, companies or groups use bots and spam accounts to make a certain post or person more noticeable to the algorithm.

Say you had a company that you were getting off the ground. 

You could hire a promoter to help your Instagram account find more followers and get a lot more recognition. 

That promoter might use bots and spam accounts to get you a bunch of followers and fake engagement. 

That fake engagement then tricks the Instagram algorithms, and the platform itself starts steering real traffic to your account.

This does violate Instagram’s terms and conditions, so it’s definitely not an ideal way to promote someone or something on the platform, but people do it anyway.

Do People Really Follow Spam Accounts on Instagram?

Beautiful female model shown on mobile phone social app.

An entirely different aspect of spam behavior on Instagram is based on the idea of quid pro quo. 

In the unwritten rules of Instagram etiquette, it’s common to follow those who follow you. 

Plenty of people do this blindly without even reviewing the accounts they follow in this way.

You can see where this is going. 

Bot accounts can spam tons of people across the platform and follow them. 

Even if only a fraction of people follow back, it still generates a pretty large network.

That gives the bot accounts a larger following that can be used for further influence across the platform.

A large bot account could be sold or taken over by real people.

Or, it can just promote specific content that will then be shared with the bot’s follower base. 

In either case, the practice leads to spam accounts that can influence large numbers of users on Instagram.

How Do Spam Activities Protect Bots on Instagram?

Shocked young woman looking at laptop screen.

So far, all of the bot activities have been about growing a social network, using influence, promoting ideas, or running scams. 

Each of those activities runs behind a profit motive, but profit isn’t the only reason for spam behavior.

Some bot activities are just there to make it harder for Instagram to catch them.

For the most part, Instagram uses automated software to try to find bot accounts. 

When an account is flagged as spam, it is usually suspended or deleted, according to internal rules set up by Instagram.

So, the more sophisticated bots do specific things that make their activities seem normal. 

A typical Instagram user doesn’t just spam follows without ever having conversations on the platform.

Instead, the average user tends to have a lot more engagement with fewer people.

People who make bots and run scam accounts have figured this out.

They create additional spam accounts that engage with the prolific bots on a deeper level. 

This increased engagement prevents a lot of flags from triggering on Instagram’s side. 

And, because it is bots talking to bots, no one is reporting any of the accounts if the conversations are clearly inauthentic.

In other words, there are spam accounts that are only there to make it harder to find the more important spam accounts.

Do Instagram Spam Accounts Steal Information?

hacker stealing information on laptop.

The last primary goal of spam accounts is to get more information.

This is different from phishing. 

In this case, the bot isn’t trying to steal your account or rob you.

Instead, it’s trying to generate more user data that can be collected and tracked for the sake of large-scale analytics.

You’ve probably heard of major tech companies tracking everything you do and selling information to other big companies.

These bots are part of the process.

Bots can be designed to promote very specific content.

Or, they can interact with other users in very specific ways. 

Those bots are sent out to Instagram to interact with real users. 

Those interactions are tracked, and they are used in large-scale statistics to figure out what kinds of engagement or content will get the best results.

You could think of these bots as part of a giant social experiment. They’re simply trying to get you to react. 

They then track as many reactions as possible to figure out the best way to advertise or promote something else in the future.

Are Your Contacts Notified When You Join Instagram?

Woman browsing photos on social media app.

Okay. Most spam accounts are non-human but rather bots.

What about human accounts or, more specifically, your contacts who are already on Instagram? 

Do your contacts get notified when you join Instagram?

Instagram makes your profile and content available to your contacts in some form or another when you join. 

When given permission, Instagram will promote your account to anyone already in your phone’s contacts list.

Regardless of whether you use such a feature, your contacts can still search for and find you using the app.

Learn all about whether your contacts will receive notifications when you join Instagram here.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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