One variety of online grift victimizes the influencers themselves with identity-fraud tactics common to phishing.
Earlier this year, a scammer posing as entrepreneur and investor Wendi Murdoch used email handles and other techniques so convincing, social media stars were tricked into buying their own flights to Indonesia and paying for fake photography permits as part of the scam.
The victims, influencers and travel photographers among them, got bilked out of thousands of dollars in the process.
The FBI and New York Police Department opened investigations into the scam in 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Also assisting is the corporate investigations firm K2 Intelligence, which tracked the scam’s pivot from celebrities to influencers.
“For a long time, they were going after people in Hollywood. [Now, they’re] routinely targeting influencers — Instagram stars, travel photographers, people who do stuff that involves them travelling all over the world," Nicoletta Kotsianas, a director at K2 Intelligence, told INSIDER in January.
“It’s about convincing some people that there’s someone else, and manipulating them, being into that, and world-building around the whole thing,” she added. “They’re making some money off it, but it’s really about the ride along the way.”