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With the surging cost of living, increasing base rates, and stagnant wages, the lure of making money with little effort has never been greater. Unfortunately, though, there are those in the world who are ready to prey on our desperation. Scammers!
As a financial educator whose chosen platforms for spreading my wisdom are largely social media channels, I’ve discovered new scams on the block. These scams are targeting users of mainstream social media apps and unfortunately their system appears to be working.
First let’s walk through the user experience. You log on to Instagram one day and spot that your favourite Instagrammer, Looking After Your Pennies (aka me), has started to follow you. You had thought that you were already following me, but it seems not, so you quickly hit that follow back button.
You are a little suspicious, so you head to my profile. You see my posts, profile picture, a familiar-looking bio, and maybe even a few Reels. It checks out.
After a while, you get a DM from me. I say something like “Hi! Thanks for following me. How are you today?” Aren’t I nice! You reply and we exchange a few further niceties. However, the conversation eventually changes to “how’s your investing/trading/crypto going?” You are now just a few quick exchanges away from parting with your hard-earned cash and never seeing it again.
This is a copycat scammer!
They work by duplicating accounts of trusted content creators: stealing images, videos and copy to create the illusion that they ARE the person they are pretending to be. They can look almost identical.
If I had the face and the talent to be a beauty blogger, then you would probably be sceptical if I was suddenly popping up in your DMs and asking you about investing. But as a financial expert, this is what I’m talking about on a near-daily basis. The alarm bells may not ring so loudly. Our audiences are therefore at greater risk of falling victim to these insidious schemes.
In response, I have teamed up with several other leading figures in the finance space to create #MetaDoBetter. The aims of this campaign are two-fold:
Despite the name, #MetaDoBetter targets all social media platforms as there are instances of this happening not just on Instagram and Facebook, but on TikTok and YouTube too. Content creators need to know that their work and identity is protected, users want to stay safe on social media, and the platforms should want to ensure authenticity.
A few simple strategies could go a long way in combatting some of these crimes. A simple solution could be a pop-up warning in DMs that reminds users to check if what they’re seeing is a scam. This is very similar to what happens on banking apps when you make a transfer. This warning could include the age of the account, as these copycat accounts are unlikely to be more than a few weeks old.
Protection for creators is simple. The answer lies in verification. As an expert who has appeared in multiple national publications, spoken on the radio, and appeared on ITV, BBC News and Sky News, I am still unable to get the elusive blue tick. If my extensive list of public appearances wasn’t enough, then is it not enough to have a limited company of the same name? Or own the trademark? What about my passport? Or my driver’s licence?
The blue tick of verification would make it easy for my followers to recognise the real me. It could very well act as a deterrent to these fraudsters. It is one of the few aspects of a profile that they are unable to replicate.
Without the support from the social media platforms, it falls on the shoulders of content creators to alert the public to the signs of the scammers. We do not want any more members of our community to hand over their precious cash to these criminals.
Here are three red flags that can alert you to one of these scams:
Thankfully, this campaign has already hit the national press including a major feature in the Financial Times, with journalist Claer Barrett also taking the story to LBC radio.
But there is more that needs to be done to keep social media users safe online. Spread the word. Share the red flags. Up the pressure. Come on #MetaDoBetter.
Please contact us to discuss opportunities to work with Charlotte. You can catch up with the rest of her news here.