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Instagram Verification Ponzi Scheme Exposed by ProPublica

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IG-Verification

Instagram verification is a new age most coveted elite status that comes in the form of a blue tick mark on an Instagram profile. Having an Instagram verified profile or the blue tick mark on your profile means that you’re who you claim. In recent times, the race to get the blue tick on the profiles has become more ferocious than ever.

Naturally, there are people who don’t mind using dirty tricks to get the blue tick mark. Let’s look at some of the largest scams uncovered by ProPublica recently.

The largest Instagram Verification Scam

In an investigation, ProPublica has unearthed several fake verified Instagram profiles. In what can be called the largest Instagram scam, ProPublica found out that several irrelevant profiles were verified by creating their false identity as musicians. In this scheme, some tracks would be published under your invented industry name on various platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. These tracks would be nothing more than dead air and beat loops. These tracks would identify you as a musician.

Additionally, they would publish some articles for your name on the web. These articles are easily purchasable and help you get through Instagram’s scrutiny. Moreover, easily purchasable fake comments and likes on these articles would ensure that these articles come across as genuine.

Plastic surgeons,  stars, reality show contestants, jewelers, etc have been found as a part of this Ponzi scheme. They’ve acquired the Instagram verification on their profiles without having any merit. You could have easily become a part of these schemes by paying substantial money. Also, when questioned by ProPublica, the lapse was found by the verifiers who failed to look at these tracks more closely.

Recently, over 300 profiles have lost their Instagram verification including. MTV reality show stars Mike Vazquez and Lexie Salameh. They’re also looking into going through more profiles to ensure that only genuine profiles reflect the blue tick on their profiles ensuring the eliteness that comes along.

By getting the verification mark on your website, you can reap various benefits including monetary benefits.

Who’s the Mastermind – The Blame Game?

ProPublica recently put together the pieces compiling all the information available through Meta and these music platforms and conducting various interviews. They have discovered that the mastermind behind this Million dollar scheme is a Miami-based upcoming DJ and wannabe crypto entrepreneur Dillon Shamoun.

Dillon has surpassed earlier almost non-existent security checks of Instagram and created a pay-for-verification scheme. Using this same process, he has tried to verify his girlfriend’s, his brother’s, and his own account as well.

It’s reported that Dillon is very well connected throughout his nightlife circle including jewelers, models, celebrities, etc. On being reached out, he mentions that he’s nothing more than a crypto enthusiast working with Fanverse, an NFT platform. However, Meta has also confirmed his involvement in the scam and has deleted and banned his profile from both Instagram and Facebook.

Meta mentions through its spokesperson,’ Scammers selling fraudulent services continue to target online platforms across the internet, including ours, and constantly adapt their tactics in response to industry detection methods,’

Meta has also requested all its users to remain vigilant about the content and influencers they follow. It also mentioned that they are further tightening their check policies ensuring no such verification scams happen in the future.

However, while this scam came tumbling down, it also sparked a blame game between Dillon and his business partner Adam Quinn. Adam has been associated with some huge names like the boxer Jake Paul in promotions.

While Dillon has been pointing fingers at Adam, Adam has produced bank statements and other proof showing that Dillon has been the mastermind of this scheme, especially the reactivation of hacked accounts all along. But also, Quinn has accepted that he was part of the verifications scheme even before his involvement with Dillon.

Quinn has also accepted that he had supplied clients to Dillon through his vast network charging a cut. He also disclosed that Dillon would charge anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 for his verification services.

Decoding the steps to this mega Instagram verification scheme

Verified Artist

Here’s how modus of operandi looks like  for Fake Verification.

  • Image personification

The first step is to post a lot of visual content online reflecting your image as a musician. You’ll pose in designer clothes, luxury cars, recording studios, etc to add to the aesthetics.

  • Target music portals

The next step is to create musician profiles on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. Then you post basic tracks and buy traffic to reflect false popularity.

  • Paid PR Articles

Now, you post articles about yourself on various platforms. This PR and articles are easily purchasable helping you pass through Instagram’s verification process.

  • Content engagement

To bypass another security check, you’ll post regular content supported by fake likes and comments. This engagement is crucial to show that you’re an actual influencer even though we know the reality behind it now.

  • Branding as Musician

Once you have all these in place, Google indexes your profile as a musician and creates a knowledge panel officially announcing you as a musician.

  • Account modification

The final step before submitting your profile for verification is editing your Instagram profile. You change your bio and other details to show that you’re an actual musician.

  • Request submission

After all, this is set and done, all you need to do is submit your profile for approval. It’s a walk in the park beyond this point

In a nutshell

This sophisticated scheme has left many influencers in agony and bad names once it got unearthed. While Meta and other platforms are working towards building a safer environment for its users, the users need to be vigilant.

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