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Instagram influencers are being targeted by scammers

The Better Business Bureau reports that scammers are tricking victims into buying overpriced or nonexistent products

Photo (c) kizilkayaphotos - Getty Images
Here’s a warning to influencers and would-be influencers on Instagram: Scammers appear to be targeting you with phony charity pitches.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a scam alert, reporting that scammers are trying to trick Instagram influencers into buying overpriced products that they claim support a charity. They don’t, and the purchase just goes into the scammer’s pocket.

How the scam works

The influencer gets a direct Instagram message that claims to come from a charity or from a business allegedly partnering with a charity. The message asks if the influencer would become a “model” or “brand ambassador” for the new nonprofit campaign. 

From the complaints it has received, the BBB says the scam may claim to be tied in with everything from environmental conservation to women’s rights to LGBTQ youth.

If the influencer agrees -- and many have -- the scammer sends a discount code to purchase the products they want you to model. The price seems very expensive but, according to the scammer, the sale price goes to support the charity.

That’s bad enough, but the BBB says it’s often worse. Scam victims report purchasing items – often t-shirts – that never arrive. In some cases, the charity never even existed. 

In other cases the charity is real, but scammers used their name without their knowledge, and the nonprofit never received money from the sales.

How to spot this scam

For starters, ask lots of questions before agreeing to take on a “cause.” The BBB says that may be the best way to expose the scheme.

Targeted individuals have reported that, as they pressed for details the person they were dealing with got evasive and stopped responding. A scammer doesn’t want to deal with a victim who asks too many questions. 

“Don’t hesitate to push back if something seems off,” BBB said in its alert.

Do an online search

If the request seems fishy, do an online search. If it has scammed others, there is little doubt they will have posted about it online.

If the charity is real, there should be something on its website about any partnership with another group or business. Use the charity’s “contact us” form to inform it about what has been proposed to you. The charity may want to take action of its own to warn others.

If you think a social media account is fake, run by scammers, report it to the social media platform. They’ll investigate and remove the account if it proves to be one that’s scamming people.

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