Social media scams are growing in prevalence and local grassroots influencers aren’t immune.
Why it matters: Scammers are evolving to be more social media savvy making it harder for users to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.
Driving the news: Miranda Mounts, the influencer behind @wheretoeatcharlotte, was a target of a recent Instagram scam. A private Instagram account called @wheretoeatcharlottee (with two e’s) tried to scam Mounts’ followers by posing as a page for her giveaway winners.
- Whoever is behind the fake account is asking for credit card information and other personal data. Mounts says a few of her followers fell for the scam and shared their information, but it’s not clear whether they lost any money.
- Other area influencers including Wynee Bermudez of @wyneesworld and Allie Papajohn of @eatdrinkclt had similar issues after using the hashtag giveaway in recent posts.
“I know that as the account gets bigger, stuff like this will happen more often,” Mounts tells me. She counts this as a learning experience on how to handle scams in the future.
Background: Mounts, who has a background working in restaurants, says the account was born from her love for food. She started the account in 2018 after moving to Charlotte, and it’s grown to over 29,000 followers, despite the account’s fair share of controversy.
For the record: Mounts says she didn’t expect the account to grow so quickly. With growth comes with more scrutiny — and now, this scam.
She admits to me she’s made mistakes along the way, but says they’ve all been valuable learning experiences. Mounts was widely criticized for calling herself the “darkest person in Mexico” and for offering a COVID test giveaway.
“I wasn’t really ready for it, to be honest,” Mounts says of the account’s growth. “But it’s taught me so much about myself, it’s taught me so much about self-awareness. And if you say something there’s this many eyes on you and this many different brains.”
What they’re saying: Social media scams have “skyrocketed” during the pandemic, Tom Bartholomy, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina says. The BBB has also seen an increase in reports to its scam tracker.
While Facebook is still home to most scams, he says Instagram is a close second.
- Often times the scammers are located outside of the U.S., which makes it harder to track them down.
- Bartholomy says many of the pandemic-related scam involve stimulus checks and fraudsters posting as the IRS.
“There’s always going to be a new scam,” North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein tells me. But, he says, watching out for red flags like requests for personal information and strange links are some of the best ways to protect yourself.