As social media becomes more and more engrained as a part of our daily life so does the fraud that comes with it. In February, I reported for YNOT Cam on an FTC study which found that scams from within the adult industry weren’t even on the Commission’s radar. Unfortunately, there’s now a new con in town that’s changing the dynamic, one that uses porn as a hook to pilfer financial information from unsuspecting victims.
Covered by CBC News out of Calgary, this online menace appears to only happen to attractive females. It starts with the perpetrator stealing the women’s photos to create a second identical profile which is then used to advertise faked adult content. They put a link in the bio promising sexy photos. Once clicked, it brings the user to a site like OnlyFans where they’re asked to give out their credit card number to subscribe and view the content. Though the platform looks legit and identical to the real thing, it’s a dummy site. Believing it’s authentic, the person is easily duped into giving out sensitive financial information.
Who falls for this stuff, you ask? Plenty do.
One way scam artists snag their victims is by poaching followers from the original account. People follow the fake profile back thinking the old one was shut down. From there DMs are sent and the unaware user chats with a criminal thinking it’s their friend. They then give up information they wouldn’t normally hand over or follow links they’d typically never trust. Mariah Bouvier told CBC News that when it happened to her, she woke up to more than 50 messages from friends warning her that someone had been impersonating her to get them to click on a porn site. Because Instagram by nature connects people with complete strangers, the rest of her followers probably didn’t have a clue.
For many who are victims of this con, it doesn’t happen just once, but numerous times. A spokesperson for Meta (Facebook) said they’re dealing with the problem. “Claiming to be another person on Instagram violates our Community Standards, and we remove fake accounts when we become aware of them.” Bouvier, however, claimed that she reported her hacked account multiple times to Instagram, and not only did it take nearly four weeks to get it removed but they responded to her at one point saying they “didn’t see a problem with it.”
What makes this new scam especially devious, of course, is that it exploits the adult industry and the popularity of porn as bait for illegal activity. This perpetuates the myth that pornography causes harm and gives platforms one more reason to discriminate, disenfranchise and shadow-ban. As observed by Brittany Rudyck, an advocate of sexual violence these scams are “also exploitative of the people who are wanting to pay for sex work and engage in that sort of content earnestly and pay the content creators what they are worth.”
In closing, here’s a strange twist of irony: the reason the con works so well is because people want to see adult content that’s not allowed on these platforms in the first place. In fact, they want to see it so badly they’re willing to follow a suspect link offsite and pull out their credit card.
Now that’s fodder to think about.