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Instagram Must Stop Scammers Targeting Gen Z

This article is the latest part of the FT’s Financial Education and Inclusion Campaign

I’ve got a question for you. How do you know I’m really writing this article? It looks real There is a picture of my face and it is posted on a media platform that you trust.

What if I told you, dear reader, that I had a crypto investment opportunity that could quickly double your money?

I would hope that FT readers would immediately conclude that the article must have been written by a scammer. Unfortunately, it’s much easier for identity fraud to spread on social media platforms. Lloyds Bank recently reported a 155 percent annual increase in fraud cases on Instagram over the past year, centered on the under-25s.

The latest twist? Some of the most popular personal finance content creators in the UK are being deliberately targeted by scammers who are cloning their accounts and trying to scam their followers.

“If a beauty blogger asked you if you were looking for a new way to make money, you’d probably be suspicious,” says Charlotte Jessop, founder of the Looking After Your website, Instagram account and YouTube channel pennies”.

“But when you get a message from a personal finance expert you’ve followed who says ‘I’m going to teach you how to make an extra £500 a month’, it’s not so far-fetched to believe it’s real could be – and that is a real risk for us.”

Charlotte Jessop, Founder of Looking After Your Pennies.

This week Jessop and a group of 30 financial content creators launched a campaign to raise awareness of a spate of fake accounts targeting their followers, some losing thousands of pounds.

It’s shockingly easy for scammers to copy account names, profile pictures, and months of content, and then use these fake accounts to target young (and often financially naïve) followers with scam investments.

Although this can happen on TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms, activists use the hashtag #metadobetter as this is a particular problem on Instagram.

Emmanuel Asuquo – a qualified financial planner who posts financial literacy content on Instagram at @theemaneffectuk – posted a video this week warning of copycat accounts after two of his followers were scammed out of a combined £4,000.

“The faker copied my profile picture, my page and just put a 1 at the end of my username, then started chasing my followers and sending them DMs [direct messages] asking them to join my crypto investment club,” he says.

Two people believed it was him and sent money, but dozens of others sent messages to his real account asking, “Is that really you?”

Asuquo, who has 30,000 followers, was forced to post suggesting he would never invest money for anyone else.

“You can get so excited that someone you admire is following you and communicating with you that you don’t have time to think about it – why would they follow me?”

Instagram eventually deleted the fake account. However, Timi Merriman-Johnson (better known as @MrMoneyJar on Instagram) says scammers make it harder for content creators to discover their profile has been cloned by blocking them, which also makes it harder for them to report the fakers.

Instagram Must Stop Scammers Targeting Gen Z, Crypto Trading News

Timi Merriman-Johnson, also known as Mr MoneyJar

“You can’t see that they exist, so the first thing you’ll hear about is that your followers are contacting you and asking why you just tried to sell them crypto,” he says.

He and Jessop set up a WhatsApp group of financial experts to coordinate the bulk reporting of fake accounts.

“Every day, literally, someone posts something about a different fake account,” he says. The creators find that the more fraud reports are sent, the faster the fake account will be deactivated: “But then MrMoneyJar2 will rise like a phoenix from the ashes and the whole process will start all over again.”

One of the most copied accounts is that of 21-year-old Poku Banks, whose investing and personal finance videos have garnered him half a million social media followers — many of them teenagers — making him a particular target.

“If you search for ‘Poku Banks’ on either Instagram or TikTok, there are at least 10 accounts that look exactly like mine — profile picture, posts and, in some cases, followers,” he says.

“Unfortunately, one of my Instagram followers recently contacted me to say that he sent money to one of the fake accounts. You lost over £100 and have no way of getting the money back. I wonder how many more people have fallen victim to these scams.”

Even I got an Instagram message from a fake Poku asking me to invest in crypto — and like thousands of others, I sent him a message saying, “Is that really you?” Carrying his official bio the inscription “I will not DM you to invest”.

As influencers spend more time dealing with the aftermath, they are rightly demanding that social media platforms do more to protect their followers and prevent this type of scam.

Instagram Must Stop Scammers Targeting Gen Z, Crypto Trading News

A cautionary tale social media post by lookafteryourpennies

After I reached out to Meta for a comment, it responded, “We don’t allow anyone to impersonate someone else on Instagram, and people can report to us impersonating someone else directly in the app.” Financial scammers use a variety of tactics online to mislead people, and we pay close attention to these tactics so we can respond and protect our community.”

Still, verifying high-profile financial commentators with a blue tick would instantly make it easier to spot fake accounts — but different platforms have different verification policies.

“Many of us are registered as limited companies and have been cited in the national press as financial experts, but our requests for review are still being denied,” says Jessop.

I think if you are known enough to have your account repeatedly cloned by a scammer you should get a blue tick.

Given that these scams start via DMs, why can’t platforms train their algorithms to flash an alert like “This account was created three days ago – could this be a scam?” or “This is the first time this person has contacted you, are you sure of their identity?”

Pinterest has a similar warning system – and of course the banks do too. When you try to transfer money using your online banking app, a plethora of anti-fraud alerts will flash up.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to deter the young investors who lost money. Their banks have said they will not be held responsible for the fraud as customers willingly transferred the money.

With online fraud at record levels, retail (private) banking executives will be gritting their teeth at being on the alert to compensate cheated customers if they think social media platforms could do much more to do so to prevent.

UK Online Safety Act will – eventually – impose a legal obligation to improve user protection against fraud. So why wait? Like it or not, social media is where young people turn to for their financial education. It’s a shame some learn lessons about cheating the hard way.

Claer Barrett is the Consumer Editor of the FT: claer.barrett@ft.com; Twitter @Clearb; Instagram @Clearb


Source: Crypto News Austria

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