These days, we are bombarded on Instagram with ads in our feeds, and people in our DMs offering us discounts, promotions, and free products. It’s hard to determine what’s a real offer and what’s a potential scam to get you to spend money (hello, multi-level marketing). The offer is usually very tactful: the business typically DMs you, flatters you, and tells you they want you to be a “brand ambassador” for their business. Whether they’re offering jewelry, skincare products, swimwear, clothes, or something else—these scams are everywhere, and they’re cleverly disguised as legitimate opportunities to get free products in exchange for photos. Let us be the first to tell you—many aren’t.
Here are a few dos and don’ts in the world of Instagram offers and some overall tips on red flags to watch out for.
Are they asking for money?
Any legitimate brand that wants to work in a partnership with you will not ask for money. They won’t even ask for money to cover shipping. Don’t get dazzled by the opportunity to buy something because they’re offering you a steep discount or using sales language to convince you that you’re getting a good deal. Unless it’s 100% free, it’s probably a scam.
Are they verified?
Large brands and businesses that are legitimate are typically verified (look for that little blue check-mark next to their name). Scammers will make copycat accounts of these brands and DM people in search of ways to make money. Be sure to see if the account is verified, and if it’s not, you can google the company’s Instagram to see if it’s the correct one.
Is everything taking place in the DMs?
Serious businesses that want to partner with you may initially reach out in your DMs (if you don’t have an email address in your bio for inquiries). Once they’ve initially made contact, however, it’s proper protocol to move things into a professional email setting. If the brand doesn’t ask you for an email address and is conducting business solely through DMs, that’s a red flag.
How are they speaking to you?
Especially when looking to avoid an MLM (multi-level marketing) scam, take a good look at how the person is speaking to you. Is it overly enthusiastic? Are they using a lot of flattering language? Is their use of emojis over the top? These can sound like silly red flags because, hey, maybe some people are just really nice! This kind of communication from a business entity is typically a means to draw you in and make you feel comfortable with the person trying to manipulate you into buying low-quality jewelry so they can use your images without credit or compensation.
What does their existing content look like?
There is nothing wrong with leaning on influencer marketing to build your brand, but if a brand doesn’t have any self-made/self-branded content, that’s a red flag as well. Any brand worth their salt will have personal branding—that may be a logo or some sort of properly executed professional photoshoots to build the brand and give it legitimacy. Solely depending on “brand ambassadors” is a sign the brand isn’t the most legit.