An Instagram account has been sending private messages promising $50,000 of lottery winnings to its first 50k followers. It’s a scam, and this is how it works.
Carl got in touch with us to let us know he’d been sent a private message on photo-sharing app Instagram. It read:
“I’m Julie Leach the powerball winner of $310,500,000. I’m giving out $50,000 to the first 50k followers and to those in need of help”
There are pictures of a lady collecting the winning cheque on the account itself.
Julie Leach was a genuine lottery winner in the US in 2015. Her name and image have since been abused by scammers via email and on social media.
Fraudsters often use genuine news stories and events to add plausibility to their story. In January, scammers were posing as EuroMillions winners Frances and Patrick Connolly on Twitter.
Multiple Instagram accounts
Our cursory search of Instagram revealed 20 accounts bearing the name ‘Julie Leach’ alongside promotional images of the genuine Julie Leach collecting her winnings.
The account that messaged Carl was still active and had doubled its follower numbers. We tried to report it via Instagram’s reporting tool, but found there was no specific category for scam accounts.
When we instead tried to report it as ‘impersonation of a public figure’, we were unable to do so unless we provided the genuine account username of the real Julie Leach.
Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) has confirmed that scams and fraud should be reported as ‘spam’. A Facebook spokesperson said:
“We are aware of this issue and will continue to look into this matter to disable any accounts in violation of our policies. The account you spotted has now been removed for violating Facebook’s community guidelines”
Impersonation of celebrities on social media
As our investigation has shown, scams impersonating celebrities on social media continue to crop up regularly.
The observation that this account had doubled its followers in an important one – more often than not accounts like this are sold on then rebranded and renamed once they’ve accrued a large audience.
This then makes its following vulnerable to whatever content the new owners may choose to post, including scams.
If you’ve spotted this scam or anything similar, make sure you report it. If you’re concerned that you may have given your bank details to scammers, contact your bank immediately.
You can also read our guide on getting your money back after a scam.
Have you spotted fraud like this on Instagram? If so, get in touch and help warn people in the comments.