Congratulations, Instagram junkies! Your faithful iPhone photography and unprecedented user engagement have led to a wealth of new and exciting opportunities for you to take advantage of… ahem… I mean, for you to be taken advantage of.
You know the old adage about how a deal that’s too good to be true probably is? Oh, you don’t? Well, that explains why such an alarming amount of you are falling for the latest wave of Instagram scams. Huge brands promising ridiculous giveaways that they could never fulfill, all in exchange for a little Instagram love: a shout-out here, a follow there, picture comments everywhere. Be one of the first 20,000 to spread “British Airway’s” holiday giveaway to your feed and voilà! You and a loved one are flying to London. FOR FREE.
Yes, you read that correctly. 20,000 OF US ARE GETTING TWO FREE TICKETS TO LONDON JUST FOR TAKING A SCREENSHOT OF AN INSTAGRAM PROFILE, POSTING IT TO OUR ACCOUNT AND JAMMING UP OUR FOLLOWERS’ FEEDS, SOME OF WHOM WILL BE AS NAÏVE AS US AND ALSO SHOUT-OUT THE PROFILE, PERPETUATING THE CYCLE UNTIL EVERYONE WE KNOW ON INSTAGRAM IS IN LONDON (FOR FREE), PARTYING TOGETHER IN REAL LIFE AND POSTING PICTURES OF IT ON INSTAGRAM…
ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME?
Ok, ok… as the caps lock guy, I apologize… Let’s compose ourselves and break down exactly what’s wrong with this picture.
For the sake of discussion, we’ll assume these Instagram scams are actually legitimate promotions.
Why would a company do this?
A. ‘Tis the season.
B. The company is making too much money and is looking for a way to lose its ass on a half-cocked promotion.
C. To gain publicity and boost the brand’s social presence.
Of course the answer is C. So, if a company is trying to grow its digital fan base, why would it use an account that has little-to-no existing content (a company with one photo on its Instagram is not a company that is going use Instagram for a giant promotion), NO company links or contact info, and most importantly, NO actual information about the giveaway? Which brings us to our next question. This one is a simple yes or no.
Isn’t it strange that there are no rules, regulations, or legalities for a giveaway that will cost the company at least a quarter of a million dollars?
If you answered B, thank you, but our time together has come to a close. Please follow this link far, far away.
If you do, on the other hand, find this suspicious now that you think about it, congratulations! We’re getting somewhere. How often do you encounter the legal fine print on a promotion or giveaway? Every single time — if the company is legitimate. Because giving away a ton of product as a promotion is one thing. Leaving yourself legally culpable if the giveaway somehow goes awry… well, that’s quite another. A legitimate company would rather staff a legal department or outsource to a company like ePrize that specializes in knowing how to close loop-holes and run the red tape.
Ok, one last question:
This giveaway could be real, so what’s the harm in trying to win just in case?
A. No harm!
B. No harm! Unless you count looking like a bozo on Instagram.
C. In the event that this giveaway is not real (spoiler alert: it’s not), you are leaving yourself open to being scammed at a future time… and you look like a bozo on Instagram.
Once again, the correct answer is C. As we saw six months ago in a similar Instagram scam, luring users in with promises of big rewards is merely step one. From there, the charade will continue as the scammers solicit names, email addresses, and if they’re lucky (and you were born yesterday), personal information, as a technicality before they can “send your prize.”
It’s still unclear exactly what’s motivating this latest string of Instagram scams. But this much is clear: thousands of people are falling for them. Don’t be one of them.
As Instagram continues to demand more digital marketing attention from companies large and small, the amount of Instagram-based contests will undoubtedly increase. As will the number of complete and utter scams. So, next time you encounter an Instagram giveaway, consider the following:
- Does the company profile look totally legitimate, or does something seem suspicious?
- Is the contest surprisingly easy to win?
- Are there actual contest rules and legal fine print?
- Is the prize value relative to the task required to enter? (In other words, is the company giving away a $5 gift card or a brand new iPad for an Instagram shout-out?)
- And finally, the most important question of all: is it too good to be true? Because it probably is.