Instagram scammers copycat popular accounts to access followers, money during giveaways

As you are scrolling through your social media feed, you need to watch out for scammers impersonating popular businesses and influencers social media pages to try and get access to their followers and even their money.

It happened to a popular triangle food and travel blogger, and when her account got shut down, she turned to out Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for help.

NC Eat & Play has quite a following on its Instagram and Facebook pages.

Megan Nichols the creator of NC Eat & Play built a name for her brand with more than 27,000 followers on Instagram.

She highlights new places to eat and explore in North Carolina mainly, here in the Triangle.

"It's a huge passion project for me but it's also grown to a point where it's supplying some of my family's income so it was pretty devastating to feel like I may lose it.," Nichols said.

Nichols was in jeopardy of losing it, after one of her posts on Instagram about a giveaway got the attention of scammers.

"I used the hashtag giveaway to help it grow and to help people find it. These scammers, scammers in another county have been preying on the giveaway hashtag to find these contests for easy targets," Nichols said.

The scammers started new Instagram pages, with usernames very similar to Nichols; NC Eat & Play.

They stole her pictures and then she says, "They message everyone who is entered in the giveaway and say hey you won click this link. I had all of my followers report them and they were taken down and removed, I thought it was over."

However, it wasn't over, it got worse for Nichols.

"They created another one, and they were just relentless. They just kept creating them and I kept had my followers report these accounts until one day I woke up and my account was completely gone, Nichols said.

Instagram removed Nichols' NC Eat & Play account. She told Wilson, "I was panicking. I couldn't get Instagram to get me back in my account. It was a nightmare, I thought my whole livelihood and passion was just gone."

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson saw one of Nichols' post for help and reached out.

"You were my last hope and I didn't really have any hope at that point. I didn't even think you would be able to help me and then one day I got the email from you saying you're back in, and I was like praise Diane. I'm so grateful," Nichols told Wilson.

Wilson got in touch with Facebook who owns Instagram and they worked with her to get Nichols Instagram account reactivated.

A spokesperson for Facebook stated, "Fake engagement and spammy behavior are against our rules and we've made massive investments to find and remove those so Instagram can continue to be a place for genuine interactions. When detected, we take immediate action on the account or network responsible because people and businesses alike do not want to invest their time or money if they are not reaching real people."
As for Nichols, she continues to dish on all the great places to eat and explore here in the area and has this advice for others.

"Giveaways are still safe, I'm still running giveaways, I just don't use the hashtag anymore. For anyone entering giveaways, just don't click any mysterious links," Nichols suggested.

A sure sign to tell it's a scammer or copycat social media account is to pay attention to the grammar and misspellings as it's typically bad. Also, be very cautious if you're sent a link to click or asked to send money, those are all red flags it's not legit.

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