By the first six months of 2020, the pandemic was raging and global lockdown was the call of the hour, but did you know people were losing a record high of almost $117 million to Social Media scams? The open nature of Social Media as well as the race for an influencer status has made many individuals susceptible to scams like phishing and fraudulent sales. Scammers are easily able to imitate legitimate brands, or even establish their own identity to entice users to spend their money on them.
And turns out, they have been successful in doing so.
Here’s why I know.
Because I almost fell prey to one such Social Media scam. An apparent UK-based brand named Bliss Body happened to approach me on mail with an offer to be a Brand Ambassador. It piqued my interest, not because I am an influencer of any sort, but because I head the Influencer Marketing initiative at DCMnetwork.
The very-well crafted e-mail of a supposed head of marketing prompted me to respond and check out her flow of communication. The email clearly stated that I will get a free product, enjoy 40% off sitewide, get a coupon code for my followers, plus 25% commission, and I only need to pay for shipping in exchange for a picture on my Instagram. While the offer seemed ‘too good to be true,’ they cited their Instagram handle with over 129K followers, and my doubts vanished. I believed it to be legit.
I logged into their site and even chose a product. As I proceeded to pay, the shipping charges took me aback and that is when I started my research. On just Googling the name of the brand, there seems to be nothing shady. The results show their website, their product categories; watches, leggings, and swimwear. However, on Googling “Bliss Body legit?” is when you unlock Pandora’s Box of scams.
From discussions on Twitter, to Reddit, and YouTube, many have fallen prey to this scam. Unfortunately, many proceeded to pay the amount, but the product never arrived. I thanked my stars for Googling it before making the decision to purchase. But, how many really Google these keywords when swooned by the idea of becoming a brand ambassador? I was disheartened, not only because I almost got scammed, but because these fraudulent brands create trust issues even with brands that are legitimately loyal.
I took this discussion to my platform of DCMnetwork Influencers and realized that there are many similar brands following the same format to dupe Social Media users. In a tete-a-tete with some of the top Social Media influencers in the Middle East, I realized that they are the experts in spotting scams, mainly because they have been around the platform for a while. It’s the aspiring influencers, who fall prey to these.
The Influencer rulebook on spotting Social Media scams
1. If the brand offers “too good to be true” offers, it is too good to be true. Hence, a scam!
Fraudulent brands approach you with offers that are hard to say no to. For example, in my case with Bliss Body, they approached me with a free product, a 25% commission, and 40% off sitewide. Plus, a bonus coupon code for my followers. Think to yourself, why would the company splurge so much just for a picture?
2. They will ask you for an online shipping fee
This is the most significant sign that they are 100 per cent scamsters. After you engage in a conversation with them, they will neatly tuck in the part where they say you only need to pay the shipping charges. Irsa Noman, a UAE-based lifestyle blogger shares that a jewelry brand tempted her with a collaboration saying that they are ready to send free jewelry, and she only had to pay online for shipping charges. “Now I am very vigilant while discussing collaboration opportunities with international brands,” she adds. Many influencers and bloggers, including Riyadh-based Sundus Ali declines, offers that entails paying the shipping fee.
3. Their brand name seems familiar because they are knock offs
Beauty influencer, Mizna Arshad, was approached by a watch brand that sounded similar to a reputed brand. “A familiar brand contacted me. After doing some research I came to know they send low-quality knock off watches and covers the cost of the product in shipping charges. I didn’t fall for it,” she shares. She further adds that these knock-off brands take profit from you, so you are not getting anything for free. Also, as advice to aspiring influencers, she cites; “representing such vague brands isn’t of any use for your content as an influencer.”
4. Check the URL of the brand imposter
Some scamsters know that you will only trust brands you have heard about. So, they will pose to be that brand and entice you with great deals. On clicking their CTA, you will witness a suspicious URL that may not match the company at all. On entering your credentials there, you are giving away your details to scammers. Double-check the URL, always!
5. Google “XXX brand is legit”
Had I only Googled “Bliss Body” I would’ve been sold. As mentioned earlier, on Googling “Bliss Body legit?” did I uncover the truth. So, keep your search apt to the keywords to find the answer you are looking for. Don’t rely on their Instagram followers or their social media presence. Those can be bought. But authenticity cannot. Your responsibility is to check that authenticity.
When you fall prey to such scams, make it a point to spread the word. That way, you will be helping many avoid the mistake. I contacted Bliss Body for a quote, but as all fake brands do, they ghost you.