Tax investigators and bill collectors use Rich Kids of Instagram to uncover oligarchs' hidden millions

One of the perks of being insanely wealthy is you can hide your money, so when you rip people off or hide your taxes or divorce your spouse, your victims can't figure out how to get their due.

But if you're a middle-aged oligarch whose feckless offspring show off their extreme wealth in social media (see Rich Kids of Instagram and Fuerdai), they might be leaking your dirty secrets for anyone who knows how to look for them.

Bill collectors, tax inspectors and even blackmailers have turned to social media to chase down the hidden assets of the world's super rich, finding photos of kids in private jets or partying on yachts or just geo-tagging photos that reveal the locations of hidden villas owned through offshore companies.

Sometimes, it's not emotionally stunted, entitled children who spill the beans: 50 Cent posted a photo of himself, posed with stacks of $100 bills spelling out the word "BROKE," while going through a bankruptcy proceeding in which he had claimed he had no money with which to pay his creditors.

Beckett said the social media indiscretions of super-rich heirs were also leaving their families vulnerable to fraud and extortion, with high-net-worth individuals and families probably losing collectively several hundred million dollars each year due to cybercrime. The most recent case investigated by Kroll involved defrauding a family office, a private company that manages the wealth of families typically worth at least $250m.

An heiress had her email account hacked because the password was the name of her dog, which was plastered all over her social media posts. When she went on holiday, the hackers sent spoof invoices for private jets, luxury villas and shopping sprees to the family office, which paid out $900,000 before the crime was detected. "It was only when dad got cross about the size of the bills she was racking up that somebody thought to contact her and query it," said Beckett. "It is that easy."

Fouere said that K2 Intelligence had seen an exponential rise in such cases in the last year, as cybercrime groups increasingly targeted wealthy families as well as corporations. "We had a case recently where the payment instruction was for $500,000 and it was executed," he said.

Yachts, jets and stacks of cash: super-rich discover risks of Instagram snaps
[David Batty/The Guardian]