HONOLULU (KHON2) – Scammers are taking advantage of aspiring social media influencers with a charity scam ahead of the holiday season.

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They’ll trick social media users into buying over-priced products that allegedly support a charity. Instead of gaining followers, the victims end up losing money.

It all starts with a direct message on Instagram that appears to be from a charity.

“They reach out and say, ‘look, you can use your celebrity status effectively and help this cause and help raise money, all you need to do is go by here, purchase these items,'” said Roseann Frietas, the Better Business Bureau Hawaii Marketplace Manager. “A lot of times these are fake websites and they’re not getting anything in return.”

Victims told the BBB that the items they ordered never arrived. In other cases, the charity never existed.

“The key is to make sure that is a legitimate charity. Even if it is a legitimate charity, make sure that money is actually going to that charity. Sometimes what will happen is, it is a legitimate charity, they use their name, but the money is not going to that organization at all.”

Before buying into an social media offers, do research and know how to spot a fake social media account.

The BBB says this scheme uses the same tactics as a job scam.

“It’s the same type of tricks in their bags that they’re using with those scams of sending too much money. Then you need to refund them or saying you have to pay them money to be able to do it. Also don’t forget that your information is valuable. Even if they don’t get money from you, if they get your name, your birth date and social security number, all of those big red flags.”

Report scams to the BBB Scam Tracker and social media platform.

To learn more about the charity social media influencer scam, click here.

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