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The fraudsters of Instagram - how companies use influencer marketing to scam us all

Have you ever been contacted by a brand on Instagram asking you to collaborate? Or been ‘scouted’ as a brand ambassador or influencer for some obscure gym wear line?

You may get these messages daily and know to just delete them but it’s easy to get sucked into these scams, especially when so many people on instagram now offer discount codes. A great idea to make some side money right? Most likely they are scammers trying to make money out of you.

Who they target:

An ambassador suggests someone who is the face of a company, actively promoting for an agreed upon wage. By signing up to be a ‘brand ambassador’ for these companies messaging you on instagram, you are not an individual specially selected to promote their brand. Most likely you are one in a million people they have messaged to try this tactic as they target anyone and everyone. Particularly if they are commenting on your post then they are most likely using a bot in order to bulk message people similar to you.

How they work:

Most of the time these scams work by a company offering you discounted products in return for a discount code and a minimal cut of whatever you sell on, and we mean extremely menial. This means you have to buy the product upfront, a massive red flag. They often target those without the following to have a swipe up feature to buy so unless a family member or close friend takes pity you are unlikely to make any money. So ultimately you are just their buyer and they are selling you the product meaning they make a fortune out of their ‘brand ambassadors’.

These companies work by drop-shipping. That means marking up cheaply bought items by at least 400%. These would all be bought in bulk. By marking up the items they can make even more money and by preying on normal people to become ‘brand ambassadors’ they convince people they will make money. Another sign they are drop-shipping is by looking at the shipping time- over two weeks and you can be sure they’re shipping in from China.

How to spot them:

If they are commenting on your posts or sending you DM’s that are from random accounts and not legitimate business accounts then they are scammers. They normally will have an array of random accounts as they regularly get shut down. Unless you are contacted by an actual brands business account then it is most likely a scam and normally these brands will contact you in a more professional manner than a DM or a comment.

Another way to spot a scammer is to look at their own instagram account. If they are promoting that they are looking for brand ambassadors with phrases like ‘DM to collaborate’, ’DM to be a brand ambassador’ or ‘DM to be an influencer’ then they are not a real company company looking for actual customers- they are looking to make money out of brand ambassadors like you. Their engagement on their page will also be really low. They may have bought followers to build up their page and look more legitimate but a quick look at their posts will show poor quality images and hardly any likes.

So next time you question that Instagram request DM listen to your instinct and don’t fork out any money to a company, whatever they promise you and however much you want to start you Influencer career.

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