influencers targeted by scammers

Social media influencers targeted by identity thieves

Social media influencers are attractive targets for identity thieves. With large followings and a literal influence on their followers, it’s no wonder they are targeted by scammers and spreaders of fake news.

A subset of influencers are the so-called “finfluencers”: influencers that provide their followers with financial advice. Such a person influences the financial investment decisions of their followers by doling out advice or recommendations. This comes in the form of get-rich-quick schemes, cryptocurrency related advice, stock investment, financial planning, or just about anything people can do to make money.

On the platforms that matter these days, like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, the number of followers of some of the well-known finfluencers far exceeds the numbers of followers of some of the biggest broking houses. In May of 2023, India banned a YouTube finfluencer with over a million followers from the securities markets for a year for allegedly providing advisory services—daily stock investment/trading calls—without registering with the regulator.

With enough followers that heed their advice, these finfluencers also can have an effect on the financial markets. With enough demand, prices go up and if you know that’s going to happen, making money is indeed easy.

And as an exit scam in which you make one big whopper and then disappear, that’s a very profitable strategy. But most influencers are in it for the long run and don’t want to ruin the reputation they built. Unless their account falls into the wrong hands.

In October of 2023, the Federal Trade Commission warned people with a lot of social media followers they might be the target of scammers. These scammers would come up with fake job offers of offering to pay them for product promotion as “brand ambassadors.” But in reality the scammers are after personal and financial information.

Typically, the scammers say they’ll send you free products and pay you large amounts of money to promote those products in your social media posts. All you have to do is to accept the offer and give them your personal and banking information so they can pay you.

What the scammers are really after can vary from cleaning out the influencers’ bank accounts to taking over their social media accounts. “If you provide us with your login credentials, you don’t have to do the work, we’ll post the promotional content ourselves.”

The scammers will then leave the influencer behind with an account that has a bad reputation and lost a good part of its followers.

Some good news might come from the regulation side. The governments of ten nations have called on social media operators to improve their ability to detect and prevent fraud on their platforms. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States did this because:

“Fraudsters operate at scale, exploiting telecommunications networks, cyberspace and a population that spends an increasing amount of time online.”

In a communiqué issued as a result of the Global Fraud Summit, which also included representatives from INTERPOL, the Financial Action Task Force, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the European Union, the partakers listed 29 action points that should help reduce online fraud.

It will be hard to accomplish this goal but as we have seen, similar actions led to a promising decline in robocalls. Australia also reported progress towards their vision of making Australia the world’s hardest target for scammers with, for example, a 38% decrease in losses due to investment scams.

What can influencers do to protect themselves

  • Always assume that if it’s too good to be true, then it’s probably not true.
  • Never give out your personal or financial information without doing proper research first.
  • Contact the company directly to confirm the offer. Use a phone number or contact method you know to be legitimate.
  • Check if the person contacting you is using an email address that’s affiliated with the company they claim to represent.
  • Don’t let any person or app create posts on social media on your behalf.
  • Don’t let scammers rush you into decisions. They will always claim it’s urgent or you need to act fast.

Check your digital footprint

If you want to find out how much of your data has been exposed online, you can try our free Digital Footprint scan. Fill in the email address you’re curious about (it’s best to submit the one you most frequently use) and we’ll send you a free report.

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Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.