A new report shows social media influencers are being increasingly hacked during Coronavirus by scammers looking to con adoring fans out of their money. 

Influencers are usually attractive models trying to inspire their audience with fitness, products, healthy eating, and positive messages.  Scammers, trying to exploit people’s loneliness during the pandemic, are stealing photos and creating fake accounts, pretending to be influencers to empty bank accounts. 

SocialCatfish.com today released a report on Social Media Influencer Romance Scams.  The company surveyed 130 social media influencers and 112 of them reported an increase in scammers stealing their identities to trick followers. Eighty-six percent of them said more people are contacting them letting them know fake profiles are being created using their images. 

“I believe COVID-19 has increased the number of catfishing scams due to people having more free time on their hands,” said Tom Ernsting, an influencer with nearly 150,000 Instagram followers. “Not only to make up the fake profiles but also to be the person being scammed who spends more time on the Internet and is probably more desperate for attention than they typically are.”

Here are 6 Ways to Avoid Social Media Influencer Romance Scams.  

1. Request a Video Call or Meet In Person: Verify that the person is real with a video call but make sure their words match their lip movements. If something seems off and they are not responding to you, it could be a fake video call. The best way to verify if someone is real is by meeting them in person.

2. If They Work Overseas: Most scammers will claim that they work overseas because it is an ideal excuse for why they are unable to meet you in person. 

3. Bad Grammar: Grammatical errors and signs of foreign language is a sign  they are from a different country, such as Nigeria, where romance scamming is more prominent. This doesn’t always mean that they are a scammer, but it is a enormous red flag if they start asking for money or won’t video chat you.

4. Never Give Anyone Money: Romance scammers often say they have an emergency and need money. If this person was really in danger, they would have family and friends that they’ve known longer than you that can help them out.  As influencers they are also likely well off.

5. Never Give Personal Information: There is no reason why anyone else would need your Social Security number, your credit card number or your date of birth, etc. These bits of information can give scammers access to your bank accounts and allow them to commit identity theft and steal your money.

6. Block Scammers Immediately: If you suspect you are being scammed, cease all communication and block them from all platforms and devices.  

If you encounter a scam artist, contact local law enforcement or file a complaint with the FTC.