Scammers With Verified Instagram Accounts Cheating 'Influencers' With Fake Verification Service
(Source: forbes.com)

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(Original link: forbes.com)

Getting verified on social media is a big deal. Verified users on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get a special icon, comments by verified users on Instagram posts can get additional visibility, and verification can help in influencers getting sponsored by advertisers, which is why would-be influencers will try almost anything to get verified.
Making them, of course, perfect targets for a scam.
That's exactly what's happening, says Viral Nation 's Travis Hawley.
A scammer's Instagram story with a "verification service" for $450.
Travis Hawley
While he's now a social media manager, Hawley used to be an NSA intelligence analyst, and he used his National Security Agency training to dig into the scam.
"I noticed something interesting and suspicious in the comments of Lebron James’ latest Instagram posts," Hawley told me via email. "I decided to engage in a surreptitious investigation."
What Hawley saw was comments from verified Instagram users like @sue_smith811 and @bburrger saying things like "DM me to buy verification badge, PAYPAL ONLY."
Alleged scammer comments on Instagram offering paid verification services for would-be influencers.
Travis Hawley That same account had a picture posted to its story titled "Instagram Verification Service," touting a $450 services to get verified on Instagram. Currency accepted: Amazon gift cards or cryptocurrency ... and if you chose crypto, you'd save $150.
The account promised verification in just 45-60 minutes.
The only problem? The scammy and unethical offer was itself a scam.
Hawley contacted several of these scammers and, as a test, tried to use one of their services. Three separate payments later over Zelle , a digital payment service, the scammer had not yet delivered the goods and blamed various financial systems and incompatibilities for allegedly not receiving payment. After yet another payment, this time via Bitcoin, the scammer took Hawley's money and disappeared, blocking him on WhatsApp ... and on Instagram.
Why Zelle and why Bitcoin?
"The reason they chose to use Zelle and crypto is because these transactions cannot be insured against or reported as fraud to their institutions whereas with a credit card there are chargebacks and recourse to get your money back," says Hawley.
Ultimately, what you have is a market for verification that cannot be satisfied since it is not for sale from Instagram. But people who desperately want that status -- and perhaps the monetary benefits associated with being an "influencer" -- are willing to engage with scammers who promise what they cannot deliver.
The scammers themselves likely obtained verification fraudulently.
"While I am not certain how, some speculate that they may have hacked already verified profiles, taken over, and changes the names and removed all the existing content," says Hawley. "It is extremely hard to believe that anyone who was truly a verified user would ever engage in something so public and so illegal."
In case it's not clear: Instagram verification cannot be bought. Facebook manages the system, and while there have been imperfections and holes in the past, the company has clamped down on who can be verified.
Any offers to verify Instagram users for a price should be reported and then ignored....