Drug Dealers Devise New Methods for Instagram Deals

By McCarton Ackerman 09/15/14

Drug dealers are finding new and creative ways to cover their online tracks.

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After widespread reports of law enforcement officials arresting brazen drug dealers who advertised their services on Instagram, dealers are reportedly finding new ways to avoid leaving footprints with their transactions over the Internet.

A source with direct knowledge of Instagram’s drug trade explained to website Venture Beat how they are managing to beat the posting restrictions that Instagram has for their service. Using programs including Ubuntu, VirtualBox, and a standard VPN, dealers are now using burner Instagram accounts on a burner “phone” connected to the Internet. This method is used in conjunction with untraceable prepaid debit cards, virtual currency including Bitcoins, and Google Voice.

Instagram has blocked several hashtags from appearing in searches last year after news outlets began reporting that dealers were posting photos of illicit drugs with less-than-subtle hashtags including #weed4sale. The FBI also began cracking down on this form of dealing; last March, they seized hundreds of pounds of weed and arresting 350 drug dealers across the country who geotagged their drug warehouses in Instagram posts.

Facebook, which purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, only addressed this matter in the “What Not To Do” section of their community guidelines. They declined to say how many, if any, of their full-time staff members directly handle this issue.

A report from drugabuse.com found that 82% of Instagram drug dealers sell marijuana, making it the most commonly sold and purchased drug by far on the website. Fifty-eight percent of dealers offered codeine syrup or codeine cocktails, while 20% of dealers peddled MDMA and another 13% offered painkillers. Perhaps even more surprisingly, 34% of these drug peddlers showed their face over the Internet to potential customers. Many others also listed their phone numbers.

Approximately 50% of Instagram dealers used Kik to conduct their business, while others used online prepaid cards such as Vanilla or Greendot.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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