How To Identify and Avoid Telegram App Scams

Lyndon Seitz
Writer
Dolores Bernal
Editor
February 5, 2024
person using smartphone

Photo by Christian Wiediger

Frequent users of Telegram will tell you that the app can be all-consuming, overwhelming, and quite helpful for keeping in contact with people. Joining a group on Telegram can let someone meet someone new and get in touch with people with common interests.

It can also be a very good way to keep in touch with friends who refuse to use anything else.

However, like any other social media or messaging app, some do not have the best intentions. Scammers and cybercriminals have their plans for any successful online enterprise. 

Over the last few years, we have seen a rise in scams and phishing attempts on Telegram.

I don’t want your experience on the app to be ruined, and you don’t want to deal with identity theft, stolen property, or the other potential consequences of falling for a scam. Therefore, it’s best to learn what you can do and how to protect yourself.

What is Telegram?

telegram

Telegram is a cloud-based, encrypted, multi-platform messaging app used worldwide, with video-calling and file-sharing capabilities. Released in 2013, the app now has over 700 million users and is expected to grow even more.

It is known for its ease of use, ability to transcend borders (international SMS texting can be expensive), and excellent group chat features. In some countries, it is the most popular messaging app. In others (including the United States), it is rising in the rankings.

What Are Telegram Scams?

A Telegram app scam is a scam that uses Telegram in some way, shape, or form to try and trick people out of their assets or personal information. 

There are many constantly evolving variants and plenty of reasons for scammers and hackers to work on them, given the hundreds of millions of potential targets.

We’ll discuss the variants later, but many Telegram App scams will be the same scams you’ll see on other messaging platforms, with minor adaptations. It is a messaging platform, after all. What works on one can work on another.

✎ Related: Common Social Media Scams and How to Avoid Them ➔

How Do Telegram Scams Work?

Most scams on messaging platforms work by trying to use your sense of opportunity, fear, or trust. Scammers know that some people are naturally trusting or want to be friendly or helpful. Alternatively, they know people like free stuff or want to avoid high bills.

If something gets a Telegram user to respond emotionally and act without thinking, a scammer will give it a shot.

We’ll get into the details and mechanics of some scams later, but this is the crux. Again, the scammer aims to get you to act without thinking out of greed, trust, or fear.

How Prevalent Are Telegram App Scams?

In terms of attempts, the prevalence of Telegram app scams can be hard to measure. There are more spam messages and scam attempts that are simply ignored than can be easily measured.

However, scams and phishing attempts on the platform are clearly widespread. News reports about scams on Telegram are a regular occurrence, especially when a bad one pops up, or someone gets truly hurt by one

Among messaging platforms, Telegram is the second most popular option for phishers.

How to Detect a Telegram Fraud Message or Account?

If you encounter any of the following on Telegram, you might be looking at a scam attempt:

  • There is a sense of urgency involved.
  • The message is the digital equivalent of a laser lights show decorated by a six-year-old who just discovered emojis, trying too hard to gain your attention.
  • Grammar, spelling, or usage errors that don’t make much sense. Telegram users are probably laxer with their typing than you’d expect from a professional email, but bad or nonsensical writing can still be a red flag.
  • The message is asking for something, perhaps money, account information, or personal information.
  • The account’s name makes no sense, is a jumble of letters and numbers, or is impersonating a company or famous person.
  • You are randomly being sent an offer or link.
  • Something seems too good to be true.

There are other signs, but they are more relevant to specific scams than all Telegram app scams in general.

7 Common Telegram App Scams

  1. Fake Accounts and Bots
  2. Fake Classified Ads and Job Listings
  3. Fake Cryptocurrency Giveaways
  4. Cryptocurrency Pump and Dumps
  5. Fake Technical Support Scams
  6. Friend Impersonation Scams
  7. Romance Scams

When you think of a Telegram App scam, what do you expect? 

While we can’t go over every type of scam (there are far too many), here are the most common variants and options to look out for:

1. Fake Accounts and Bots

Not everyone has the best of intentions on Telegram. Many users aren’t even real. Many bots and fake channels or groups on Telegram are designed to take your information in one of several ways. 

If you just have the app to communicate with a few friends, that’s one thing. You just need to make sure your friends are who they say they are. If you like to meet new people, you need to be careful.

Defense: Be careful of who you meet and talk to online. You can learn to detect bots over time, ignore the messages, and notice what activities and messages are automated.

2. Fake Classified Ads and Job Listings

A few apps seem to be well-suited to fake job listing scams. Telegram is one of them.

The scam follows a pretty clear formula:

  1. You will see a job ad or position listed on LinkedIn, other social media (more common), or, in rare cases, a specialized job board or listing site. The less moderated the board, the more common the scammers.

  2. The ad will look like a great option, almost too good to be true (it is). If you’re interested in the position, you must contact the hiring manager via the following Telegram username or address.

  3. Once you’re messaging them, it can differ or get interested. They’ll either ask for the following:
    Your personal information for the job application, beyond which would be needed for a job application.
    • Your personal information for the job application, beyond which would be needed for a job application.
    • Money for an application fee.
    • Private information as part of an interview process. Though it hardly pertains to the position at hand.

It could also be another messaging app (like Signal) the scammer wants you to use. Still, it all boils down to a lack of accountability and the ability to get out without consequence after they have your information (alongside deeply problematic hiring practices, they’ll never hire anyone good at this rate).

Defense: Don’t let Telegram have anything to do with your job search or application processes. And be sure to vet job ads to make sure they are legit.

3. Fake Cryptocurrency Giveaways

One of the more popular crypto scams is the fake cryptocurrency giveaway, which is about what you’d expect it to be. 

The scammer will contact you directly or set up a group saying that you have won or have a chance to win cryptocurrency

“All you need to do is connect via a link, input personal information, or pay a small (not so small) transfer fee.”

The malicious link leads to malware; the fee leads to an empty bank account and any personal information you put in leads to identity theft

There is no cryptocurrency on a golden USB stick at the end of the scam rainbow, but finding an actual pot of gold in the woods is more likely that this situation not be a scam.

Defense: It’s no different than any other sweepstakes, fake prize, or lottery scam. It’s just cloaked in the technological mystique of cryptocurrency. 

4. Cryptocurrency Pump and Dumps

The other common variant is a cryptocurrency  “pump and dump” scheme, often involving a little-known coin. 

Scammers or organizers will try to convince people they have special information about a coin, convincing their victims inside the telegram message group that it’s time to buy. 

It’s all about price manipulation, and you’ll likely be left with losses.

Defense: If someone is telling you about a secret coin that will make you millions in an obscure chatroom on Telegram, they probably aren’t doing so out of a sense of generosity and goodwill. Ignore it, invest in cryptocurrency wisely, and use better information sources.

5. Fake Technical Support Scams

If there’s a messaging channel, you can bet there will be scammers claiming to be a technical or customer support agent on it, regardless of how absurd it might be otherwise.

They will say there’s something wrong with your Telegram account, phone, or computer (how do they know?) and that they need access to your computer, accounts, etc., to fix it. Alternatively, they’re selling a bogus piece of software to fix it, which is probably malware.

It’s an old scam. It’s now on Telegram. Don’t fall for it.

Defense: It’s hard to imagine any official support personnel contacting you through telegram. Ignore the message and contact an official channel if you need help.

6. Friend Impersonation Scams

What does a scammer do with a hacked Telegram account?

They do everything they can to find victims among that account’s contacts. They might send out a “funny” link to everyone or a “great deal” with a link supposedly to a shopping website. The link would then lead to a website where you input personal data, or it just leads to malware.

If someone seems not like themselves, is sending weird things, or is someone you haven’t heard from in years, it could be a scam.

Alternatively, they don’t need a hacked Telegram account. Many people don’t have Telegram accounts, meaning impersonating a friend who might be signing up can be easy. The scammer might then pretend they are in a crisis, needing money for an emergency.

Defense: Don’t reveal personal details to someone on Telegram if you’re uncertain about some communications. If you’re uncertain, ask to contact them via another method (a phone or video call is best).

✎ Related: How to Avoid Getting Hacked On Social Media? ➔

7. Romance Scams

“So I met this wonderful man on Telegram, and now several years later, we’re getting married!” is not something you hear often, and for good reason. Telegram isn’t a dating app, and while I’m sure some people meet and have wonderful relationships, it’s probably in the context of groups over time.

The romance scam can take a while for the scammer to build trust with their victim. After a while, the scammer will ask for money for a gift, plane ticket, or something valuable (gift cards if they’re bold). 

Alternatively, they might want to learn more about you to steal your identity later.

Or both. There’s always both.

If someone comes from nowhere and seems to be into you, they’re probably into your accounts and personal information.

Defense: Remember that no one has to be who they say they are online, whether on Telegram or not. Never send someone like this money or share information. The scammer will also never want to meet in person or over video.

✎ Related: How Can You Tell A Military Romance Scammer? ➔

What to Do If You Fall for a Telegram Scam?

1. Understand What Happened

First off, don’t panic. Panicking will not help you solve the scam, and this isn’t your fault. It’s the scammer’s moral failing. However, you do have a mess to clean up now, and you need to understand the nature of the mess.

Answer the following for yourself:

  • What accounts might have been compromised, breached, or otherwise affected?
  • What information or assets does the scammer have now?
  • What was the type of scam the scammer used?

Once you have the answers, you can take the appropriate steps to protect yourself.

2. Cut Off the Scammer

Nothing good is going to happen by continuing communications with the scammer. They will only seek to get more out of you and deny ever having scammed you. 

On Telegram, block the scammer. If a group was involved, block the group and remove yourself from it.

If other channels might be used in a scam, block the scammer on them preemptively, if possible.

3. Contact the Correct Channels

Just because you shouldn’t contact the scammer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contact anyone.

  • If your Telegram account was hacked and a scammer might impersonate you, tell your close contacts about it so they don’t get tricked by a request for “help.”
  • If financial information or assets were involved, now is a good time to freeze your credit and contact your banks and creditors about likely identity theft attempts in the future. 
  • The FTC is typically interested in scams; depending on the scam that affected you, they might have resources to help or guide you.
  • Telegram might be interested in the scam if only to ban the scammer and learn more. They have an account specifically to report scams, which you can visit here.

4. Change Account and Security Details as Needed

If an account is at risk now, immediately change the login details and security measures. A password manager might be helpful if you need to change multiple passwords (Bitwarden and NordPass are good options).

Now is also a good time to scan for malware and ensure nothing is on your device. Norton, AVG, and McAfee have excellent apps and tools for this.

5. Monitor for Identity and Account Theft

If you are a scam victim, your biggest concern should be identity theft. It affects millions each year and can lead to losses of thousands of dollars (or more). 

Yet Identity theft is hard to watch for. It could happen the day you get scammed or months later. Enlisting a service such as Aura to monitor things for you, provide insurance, and help keep you safer is a much easier option and more than worth it for any victim of a Telegram App scam.

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6. Change Your Security Habits

It happened once, but you can keep it from happening again. However, only by changing your setup and habits will you be able to make a major difference in the future. 

This requires reflection.

Understand why the scam worked on you the way it did and how you can respond to a similar situation.

Ensure that you have a solid security program installed, you can spot future scams on and off of Telegram, and there are no holes in your accounts or security. This might also be a good time to reflect on how you use Telegram and if you want to change that.

Conclusion – You Can Safely Use Telegram

Telegram is a great app to keep in contact with people. There are many reasons to keep using it. Don’t let the scammers scare you off. But you do need to be careful and arm yourself with knowledge on the platform. It might seem like a lot, but remaining secure on Telegram will feel like second nature to you with time.

Remember the information in this article when using Telegram, and you will be much safer. You can also act to protect yourself by getting help through identity theft protection services such as Aura, cybersecurity software, and simply keeping yourself aware of the latest and most popular scams. You are the only one who can protect yourself.

✎ Kindly review the compilation of reported scams across different platforms: