Aspiring Instagram Influencers Become Targets in Charity Scam


(Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Scammers are taking advantage of would-be Instagram influencers by tricking them into buying over-priced products that allegedly support a charity. Instead of gaining followers and helping a good cause, the influencers end up losing money.

How the Scam Works

You received a direct message in Instagram that appears to come from a charity or from a business claiming to have partnered with a charity. The representative wants to know if you would be interested in becoming a “model” or “brand ambassador” for their new campaign. This promotion is allegedly supporting a nonprofit – recent reports to mention everything from environmental conservation to women’s rights to LGBTQ youth.

It sounds like a great gig! The “representative” sends you a discount code to purchase the products they want you to model. The prices in the online store are high, but, according to the representative, the sales go to support the charity. Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Victims report purchasing items – often t-shirts – that never arrive. In some cases, the charity never even existed. In others, 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:

  • Ask questions: Targets of this con told that when they asked for details about the charity and how the donations are used, the scammer got evasive and stopped responding. Don’t hesitate to push back if something seems off.
  • If an offer looks suspicious, do a search. If something is a scam, victims are likely to have posted about it online. Also, the charity’s website and/or social media should mention the partnership – if it’s real.
  • Know the signs of fake social media accounts: Make sure the business or charity contacting you is real. This article has detailed information about how to spot a phony Instagram account.
  • Report scam accounts and messages to Facebook and Instagram: Alert administrators to fake profiles, compromised accounts, and spam messages by reporting them on Facebook and Instagram.

Learn how to spot a job scam: This social media ambassador con uses many of the same techniques as a job scam. Read more about them at

For More Information

Learn more about charity scams in this article from  

If you’ve been the victim of a social media scam, help others avoid falling victim by reporting what happened to


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