By Meg Jerrard
Scammers are tempting influencers with large sums of money for running ads on the side of your Facebook Page. You grant them access to your Facebook ad account. They then steal ownership of your page and sell it on a marketplace. I was fortunate to have narrowly escaped. Other influencers I have spoken to since weren’t so lucky.
On December 4 I received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. That was red flag number one (not an official email address).
Red flag number two was the vagueness of the email, and the poor spelling and grammar. But this isn’t all that uncommon in the world of influencer outreach these days, so I didn’t initially think much of it.
we are collecting traffic for our site will only give you 1 ad in a day that you can post on the page. We will pay you $600 per ad for 24 hour and payment will be made in advance,
If you’re interested, Please response me as soon as possible. Thank you
After requesting more specifics, Morgan (and I’ll take an educated guess that this is not her real name), told me that she worked for a company called teads.com, that she represents multinational brands like Accor, Nike, and Pepsi, and that she wanted to pay me $600 per ad to run 2 ads per day on my page.
At this point, we still haven’t quite managed to specify that she’s talking about my Facebook page, but from some quick initial research, teads.com is indeed a legitimate media platform, who work with the world’s best publishers to distribute online ads to 1.5 billion people every month.
Spoiler alert: Morgan wasn’t actually from Teads.com. And while I didn’t know it at the time, I’ve since learned that she was trying to coax me into granting her advertising access, to steal my Facebook Page and sell it on a marketplace (maybe also not her real gender considering the sexually explicit material I was sent after I firmly requested she stop emailing me).
How did I uncover her end game?
As soon as I started warning other influencers, stories started flooding my inbox; of how this scam has been running for over a year now, and how it’s almost impossible to recover your page.
I also learned that this is not an isolated con artist – this is a highly organized ring which is coercing influencers across email, Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram, with some influencers being contacted once a day. Their efforts are persistent, determined, and become aggressive when you’re not playing their game.
$600 per ad to run 2 ads per day is a pretty sweet offer. Especially as she promised payment up front, and that this arrangement would run for the foreseeable future.
They would send me 10 ads per day, she said, and I would choose 2 of them to appear in the right side column of my Facebook page, under the section called ‘sponsored’. If you ask for examples of these adverts they will send you legitimate looking screenshots – online news stories that they are promoting to drive traffic to their clients (though notably the examples they send are from the classic Facebook format, which is now outdated as the new interface is default for all users).
I would have full control over the ads I chose to show so my page remained natural and authentic, and payment would be made via Paypal, Bank Wire, or any other payment method which suited me.
$600 per ad is not an unheard of amount of money for running a sponsored ad on your page, so this in itself wasn’t necessarily a red flag, though influencers who I’ve spoken to since have been ‘offered’ as much as $5,000 per ad, in order to get them to take the bait.
As the old saying goes. ‘If something seems too good to be true, it probably is’.
Don’t worry it’s all safe we don’t need any kind of access to your page we just need to add our ad account and setup our company ad campaign
i appreciate your efforts on your page but we’re a trusted firm all over the world and we are done with any big pages with more then 20 million plus audience
THIS was the point that alarm bells started sounding for me, and I told her I was unwilling to grant her access to my Facebook Business Manager. Knowing what I know now, this was a very good call to make.
Stealing your account through ad manager access
An advertiser requesting access to your Facebook ad account isn’t that unusual. Facebook Business Manager allows you to grant different levels of access to your ad account, for instance where an advertiser might want to set up ads on your behalf, or access your analytics to track performance. As long as they’re restricted to advertiser access, there’s no harm in doing this.
However what happens next in this instance, is that you’re sent a link, which when you click, grants them access to your page with full admin access. Your own access is then revoked within minutes. You’re removed as an admin of your page and will have no way of getting back into the account. There are no warnings given, and Facebook does not let you confirm the rights you’re giving them – when you click the link it’s all automatic.
Facebook’s help team are generally good at responding, sympathizing, and letting you know that your case is important to them. However when it comes to actually recovering your page, only one influencer I spoke to managed to accomplish it. The below screenshot from the notarized statement he provided for his Facebook case. Others, like Monica Lucy, have not been so lucky.
How to avoid this scam
A bullet-proof way to completely avoid this scam, is to never grant any third party advertiser access to your Facebook Business Manager. And never click on links sent via email which grant someone rights to any of your accounts.
These are the red flags to take:
1 – The email came from a nonofficial domain. Despite claiming she was reaching out from teads.com, her email was not from a teads.com address, and if I had dug into their website a little more thoroughly than just checking their homepage, I would have realized that their contact page has an explicit warning not to trust any outreach from a non associated domain.
2 – The whole email chain was vague, lacked detail, and the contact refused to be transparent or forthcoming with information despite an up front request for it. If a contact cannot provide a fully detailed partnership proposal up front, at the beginning of your discussions, it’s highly likely that they’re hiding something, and intentionally being misleading.
3 – Some influencers have been sent instructions for setting up advertiser access themselves, from within Business Manager as opposed to clicking on a link within an email. However these instructions grant the third party full admin privileges. Always read instructions you are sent carefully, and never grant someone access to your accounts unless you fully understand the steps, and their implications.
4 – After our email discussion ended, Morgan reached out to me on Instagram to initiate the same discussion. Others have been contacted via Whatsapp, Facebook, and other social media platforms too. Her Instagram profile had followers, and listed teads.com within her bio.
Never conduct business discussions via a social media platform, as it is impossible to quantify their legitimacy as it is with an email which has been sent from an official domain. These people reach out from Facebook profiles, from Instagram accounts, which look legitimate, to add a level of personalization to the discussion. The accounts are deactivated the minute they have your page. Or, in the case of @morgan_jenigen, the minute she sends explicit photos at my refusal to continue discussions, and is advised she has been reported for abuse and sexual harassment.
5 – All outreach is exactly the same, almost word for word from the examples I have provided above, so you can avoid the scam by not responding in the first place. Please mark their emails as spam so it hurts their domain.
6 – If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Some offers may seem normal within the going advertising rate, however some influencers have been offered up to $5,000 dollars for one ad on Facebook. While we’d all love to make a sliver of what Kim Kardashian makes, it’s not realistic to believe someone would likely pay this for a post to <100,000 followers.
Please stay safe – and guard your page!