How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram (*updated 2021*)

How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram

So here’s how to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram:

How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram (updated 2021)

I have received quite a few messages asking me for advice on how to understand if a collaboration was legit or not. And I have found myself remembering the “old me” when I first started on Instagram and look for possible collaborations myself. It was hard not to fall for those “traps”, but with some help I could then spot them straight away. They usually use a very cute language followed by emojis – which let’s say for a first message by a brand it’s quite weird – and ask you to become of their “brand ambassador” such as you will feel that is really something special (spoiler alert: it’s not) More often than not, those brand ambassadors have to pay shipping or even for the products they have to advertise.


This is not how an influencer collaboration looks like.

Let’s see the examples of scams:

How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram
How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram

If you are collaborating with a serious brand they will start complimenting your work and feed for real, you will feel it’s genuine and they will ask for how much you wanna be paid (if they do influencer marketing ads) or if they can send you one of their product to try and possible review it if you like it.

So the messages I have received the other day are not from a serious brand and here is how you can tell:

How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram
How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram

How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram

Let’s break it down:

Strong independent woman” = sounds more like a tragic illusion than a compliment to me. Of course I wanna be described as a strong and an independent woman, but that’s not how it is supposed to be said and done and NOT how a serious brand would do it. It sounds to me as some kind of a generic way to address a population of influencers and this is not personal at all. For a first time message, it would be so much less weird to address the person with their name. If she would have said “Hello Vanessa” it would have sounds so much more genuine, don’t you think? (let’s not dive into that “we are looking for beautiful women and you are a perfect fit”… mmkay?)

Delegate Program” = this sounds like some poor tragic affair. They probably don’t even know how to address their own referral program (commission based) And this is not to bash on anyone who is not a native English speaker, because I am not as well! Doesn’t matter if you’re not an English native speaker, you have to be able to rephrase it and to do some research on how to handle your “branding” before.

We are asking to pay for shipping” = Ok, this is a red flag right there. If you are collaborating with a genuine, professional, serious brand they will NEVER ask you to pay for anything. So think twice when you hear the words “pay us”. If anything, they should be able to pay you for promoting them, not the contrary.

Here’s the *UPDATE January 2021*:

So I just received this message below, to which I immediately replied to get further informations, as I was sensing it could be a scam again. But since they hinted that the shipping would be free, I was a bit unsure…

But turns out I was right when I was sensing it could be a scam… after I replied, look at the further messages I exchanged with them.

You can read that they wrote “shipping fee is also free when you become an ambassador” which I thought it would be implied that I would become an “ambassador” once you place the first order with them for free (as a part of the collaboration).

But apparently, if you check the message below, you’re not an “ambassador” at first. So you are required to “pay for the one-time shipping fee“.

This is not how a professional sponsorship would work anyway!

They talked about “sponsor” in the first message above, and sponsor means “payment for sponsoring”, so not only they are not willing to pay me for promoting their products, they even expect me to pay for shipping… not a catch in my books.

How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram

5 Ways To Quickly Pick Out Instagram Collab Scams:

Different brand reps start commenting randomly under your photos;
The brand reps use cute language and emojis in their comments;
The collaboration offer is not clear and they don’t talk about budget;
You are expected to buy the product or pay for the shipping and you won’t be getting paid for the promotional work;
The brand reps will tell you you will be their brand ambassador and you will earn commission from a vague referral program;
And last, if you feel there’s something wrong, trust your gut!

So what’s the catch?

Since many new influencers are waiting to get a reward for their hard work, they will read between the lines. What they will get is “brand ambassador”, “earn 20% commission”, the cute compliments. They also think that since they are new to the Instagram game – paying for a product or shipping – won’t hurt them. Of course you are free to pay for a product you like or a collaboration you wanna pay for, but this is not the way content creators make it on Instagram. And this is not the way brands are supposed to reward and respect content creators. You also have to be extra careful with email collab scams right now, that could lead to your account get hacked. (read more in my previous post here)

A few points to take in consideration:

From a content creator perspective, even a product-only collaboration can be fruitful or helpful in some way. Not all the collaborations you will have – especially in the beginning of your influencer career or path – will be paid. But this doesn’t make a product only collab less worth it. Brand ambassador also has not a negative meaning, scam collabs have started using it in a wrong way, but serious and professional brand ambassadorships are still possible.

Still, we should all fight to get remuneration for our promotional work. Besides, who works for free? Given the amount of hours behind a campaign shoot… we should all get paid. Be sure to always ask for a payment first or if the brand have a budget.

Did you have any bad experiences with brand scams? How did you manage to handle them? comment below and let me know!

disclaimer: this post is not sponsored, but it contains PR products by Ideal of Sweden (use my code anevgrung15 for a special discount).

photos by Clarissa Venturi

How to spot Scams Collaborations on Instagram (updated 2021)


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