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9 min read | February 16, 2024

What Are Influencer Scams and 5 Ways to Spot Them

In today's digitally connected world, influencers have become pivotal in shaping consumer behavior and trends. However, with the rise of influencer marketing, a new risk has emerged in the form of influencer scams. These scams not only pose a threat to brands and consumers but also undermine the credibility of the influencer industry. Understanding the nature of these scams and learning how to spot them is crucial for any brand looking to invest in influencer marketing. 

This post aims to shed light on the concept of influencer scams and explores five practical strategies to help you spot and avoid them. We will also explore how Influencity's follower quality scores can be used as a valuable tool to help you protect your brand reputation and ensure the success of your influencer marketing campaigns.

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What Are Influencer Scams?

Influencer scams involve individuals or groups who use deceptive practices to present themselves as influential social media personalities to extract money, free products, or services from brands. These scams can take various forms, from influencers with artificially inflated follower counts to those who engage in fraudulent activities to appear more influential than they are. The end goal is often the same: to deceive brands into believing they are investing in a lucrative influencer marketing opportunity.

The impact of influencer scams can be significant, leading to wasted marketing budgets, damaged brand reputation, and a loss of consumer trust. As such, it's imperative for brands to be vigilant and discerning in their influencer partnerships.

Common Tactics Used in Influencer Scams

Influencer scams come in various forms, but they all share the goal of exploiting the trust invested in influencers for personal gain

Here are some common tactics used by fake influencers:

  • Purchase of fake followers: Fake influencers often buy followers to inflate their social media presence artificially. This can give the illusion of a large audience, making them seem more influential and attractive to brands.
  • Engagement pods: Some use engagement pods (also known as follow-for-follow groups), where groups of users agree to like, comment, and share each other's content to boost engagement artificially. While this increases numbers, the engagement is not genuine and does not represent real consumer interest.
  • Plagiarized content: To appear more authentic and active, fake influencers might plagiarize content from genuine influencers. This tactic helps them build a portfolio quickly but content lacks originality and genuine audience engagement.
  • False claims of brand partnerships: They might falsely claim to have partnerships with well-known brands to enhance their credibility. 
  • Manipulated engagement metrics: Beyond buying followers, some fake influencers manipulate engagement metrics through bots or software that automatically likes, comments, and shares their content. This creates an illusion of high interaction levels without real audience involvement.
  • Exaggerated audience demographics: Fake influencers might provide misleading information about their audience demographics to make their followers seem more aligned with a brand's target market, enhancing their appeal for specific campaigns.

5 Ways to Spot an Influencer Scam

Understanding the different types of influencer scams and their red flags is crucial for both brands and consumers to protect themselves from harm and maintain trust in the influencer marketing space.

Here are 5 ways to spot an influencer scam.

Examine Follower Engagement

A genuine influencer's audience is actively engaged, showing consistent interaction across posts. Anomalies such as a high follower count with disproportionately low likes, comments, and shares suggest artificial inflation. Authentic engagement reflects real interest and interaction, whereas inflated metrics often lack substance, making it crucial to scrutinize these aspects for discrepancies that may indicate fraudulent activity.

Audit Follower Quality

Tools that assess follower quality can be very useful for spotting influencer scams. For example, Influencity's follower quality scores help brands distinguish between influencers with genuine, active followers and those with a high percentage of fake or inactive accounts. By analyzing metrics such as activity levels, engagement rates, and audience authenticity, brands can make informed decisions about their potential collaborations. More on these tools below.

Verify Past Collaborations

Legitimate influencers usually have a portfolio of successful brand collaborations. It's important to request and review case studies or references to assess the influencer's track record. Direct verification with the brands mentioned can provide additional assurance of the influencer's credibility and the effectiveness of their past campaigns, helping to identify reliable partners for future collaborations.

Scrutinize Content Quality and Consistency

High-quality, consistent content creation is a hallmark of a genuine influencer. Influencer scammers, in turn, often lack the ability or resources to produce content that resonates authentically with a real audience. Evaluate the influencer's content for originality, relevance, and engagement over time to ensure it aligns with genuine audience interaction and brand values.

Demand Transparency and Detailed Analytics

Authentic influencers should readily provide detailed analytics on their audience demographics, engagement rates, and the impact of their previous campaigns. This transparency allows brands to evaluate the influencer's fit with their target audience and marketing goals. Resistance or inability to share this data should raise concerns about the influencer's legitimacy and the potential value of the collaboration.

The Role of Influencity's Follower Quality Scores

We mentioned briefly above how tools like Influencity’s follower quality scores can help you identify and avoid influencer scams, but how exactly do they distinguish genuine influencers from fraudulent ones? 


Influencity's follower quality scores provide an in-depth analysis of an influencer's audience, focusing on the authenticity and engagement levels of followers. They evaluate crucial aspects such as the presence of bots, inactive accounts, and engagement patterns that deviate from the norm, which are all indicative of artificially inflated metrics.

By integrating these scores into the influencer evaluation process, brands can gain valuable insights into the quality of an influencer's followers, ensuring that their marketing campaigns reach real, engaged audiences. This strategic approach not only safeguards brands from potential influencer scams but also enhances the overall effectiveness and credibility of their influencer marketing campaigns.

 Influencer Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Campaign Planning, Execution, and ROI

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