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Instagram scammers figured out a way to get paid for banning people

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For $60 you can ban whoever you want

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Instagram scammers have developed a lucrative “banning” racket, according to a new report from Motherboard. For around $60, some scammers will get banned whatever Instagram account you choose, friend or foe, and often the scammers make even more money on the backend by helping the targeted users regain access to their accounts.

The process, according to interviews and material reviewed by Motherboard, involves using a verified account to impersonate a target (their name, photo, bio), and then reporting the target as an impersonator to get them banned. Apparently, as long as the target has a human in their profile picture the method works.

Motherboard writes that other users they spoke to also had their accounts banned for being reported for violating Instagram’s policies around suicide and self-harm, a type of content the company has tried to become even more proactive around addressing in recent years. These bans could have been caused by any variety of scripts that can spam Instagram’s reporting tools without hitting the app’s limits (around 40 reports, apparently).

The businesses of banning people is very lucrative according to at least one of the people Motherboard spoke to:

War, the pseudonymous user offering the ban service, told Motherboard in a Telegram message that banning “is pretty much a full time job lol.” They claimed to have made over five-figures from selling Instagram bans in under a month.

The fact that many of the businesses offering banning services also offered help getting accounts back, sometimes for anywhere between $3,500 to $4,000, probably doesn’t hurt either. Some users noted that they received offers of account help immediately after their accounts were disabled, and that often the Instagram account that reported them was following the Instagram account that offered help.

Instagram did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but the company told Motherboard that it was investigating sites that offered banning services, and that users should report people they suspect are guilty of that kind of activity.

If you believe your account has been disabled or banned, Instagram offers instructions in its Help Center on how to get it back.