With online scams reaching epidemic proportions, Instagram is just the latest channel for fraudsters to make a quick buck. With over 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram offers up a large, captive audience. In a world where anonymity, bullying and catfishing are common, scams prey on internet users’ sympathy, fear or greed.
Scam 1: Fake Brand Accounts
Rampant in the fashion industry, impostor brand accounts hawk goods and products across 65 million fake posts a year, according to data analysis firm Ghost Data. Bags, shoes and clothes are the most commonly faked products with luxury and high-end retailers like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Nike each having dozens of knock-off accounts. Other popular consumer brands like Apple have also been targeted.
What’s the Strategy of Fake Brand Accounts?
They promise exclusive discounts and freebies, but these fake accounts buy likes and followers and post consistently until their profiles seem like the real deal. The end game is to sell illegal counterfeit goods or use a bait-and-switch scam to change the profile topic completely once they have a captive audience.
How Common Are These Fake Accounts?
Nearly 20% of all posts about fashion products on Instagram feature counterfeit products and more than 50,000 accounts are promoting and selling counterfeit products every day, according to Ghost Data. This is up over 170% from 2016, rising dramatically as Instagram becomes a bigger player in the e-commerce space.
How To Avoid Fake Brand Accounts
If you decide to shop on social media, check the account carefully. Most real brands are verified. See what the URL links to and look for strange misspellings.
Be wary about what accounts are posting and how often. Is it all giveaways? Does it look professional? Use common sense and think twice when sellers offer expensive products for low prices or have strange payment terms or methods.
Scam 2: Companies Offering To Send You Free Followers or Likes
Influencers are paid by brands and companies to promote products on their social media profiles. It’s a highly lucrative business the bigger and more engaged your audience, the higher the fees you can command.
Thus, “generous” companies offer to send you free or insanely cheap followers or likes in the hopes that you’ll purchase more. These accounts are promoted as being real, but most are fake automated accounts.
If there are giant spikes in follower counts or your engagement rate looks odd for the number of followers you have, it’s a red flag to potential partners. Before working with an influencer, brands should always spot check the account’s followers and likes to make sure the audience is authentic and aligns with who they’re targeting.
Why Brands Shouldn’t Buy Fake Followers
For brands, it’s important to have a large following, but fake users won’t buy anything from you. Instead of buying more followers, put your money into targeting the right audience.
Scam 3: Requests That Appear To Come From Instagram
If you receive an urgent email or direct message claiming to be from Instagram, don’t click the link. The message might claim your account has been compromised or that you’ve been approved for a coveted verification badge. Instead, it’s a phishing scam to get your login credentials.
You’ll be taken to a page to enter your email address and password, and then the hacker has everything needed to lock you out of your account. In extreme instances, some scammers threaten to blackmail you in exchange for returning your account. Isn’t that something.
Hopefully knowing how these top 3 scams work will help you stay better protected and if you’ve come across something suspicious, feel free to send it on over to us for a second look.
Stay safe out there.