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updated 4/6/2012 12:47:05 PM ET 2012-04-06T16:47:05

The sepia-toned, washed-out and nostalgic world of Instagram has begun to attract unwanted attention.

The security firm Symantec reports scammers have been creeping their way into the social photo-sharing service, writing below-photo posts claiming that Best Buy has partnered with Instagram and is giving away free gift cards to a limited number of winners.

The link posted along with the message takes Instagram users to what appears to be Best Buy's photo feed, but those who pursue the gift card offer a little further will end up on another Web page that asks for their phone number to win the $100 prize.

The scam then tells victims they will "presented with optional third party offers" that will get them closer to winning the prize.

One of these third-party offers asks for your name and email address, "which will more than likely be used for future spam," Symantec said.

It's no shock that scammers are targeting Instagram; anytime an app or service seems to become indispensible, cybercriminals are right there to try to cash in on it. Like Facebook, Twitter and more recently the "Draw Something" app, the wildly popular and mobile Instagram is a perfect feeding ground for crooks.

The real payload in the Instagram scam is delivered right near the end: After users finish all the offers, they are taken to a final Web page that informs them that in order to fully enter the contest, they must submit their cellphone number and subscribe to a mobile subscription service. The service will rack up their monthly bill.

If you've made the mistake of handing over your cellphone number to this or any other scam, make sure to check your phone bill and see if there are any unwanted charges or subscriptions, and cancel them. Just as you would on your computer, be skeptical of unsolicited offers, even if they appear in your various social networking feeds. Installing smartphone anti-virus software can help keep your phone and your wallet safe from sneaky social scams like this. 

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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