Welcome to our blog!
I didn't want our first post to be based on such a scary subject, however this week we experienced our first encounter with internet scammers and I felt it would be a good opportunity to talk about what happened and give some tips on staying alert and vigilant online.
As a way to say thank you to our customers for their support over the past year we decided to run monthly giveaways throughout 2021. I actually won a competition myself during the first lockdown and it really made my day and gave me that little boost I needed. We've all been through such a horrible twelve months and if our little business could make people feel like that even for just a moment during their day then it would be worth it.
Our first two giveaways ran smoothly with no issues. We received lovely messages from the winners and it came just in time for one in particular who had really been struggling the day she got the notification that she had won.
Our third giveaway was tied in with Mother's Day, we wish we could have treated everyone after getting through another round of home-schooling!
Within twelve hours the thing that everyone dreads happening on social media finally happened. We had a huge amount of notifications from customers letting us know our account had been 'cloned' and the fake profile was using our giveaway to send messages that they had won and posting a link for them to follow which would lead them to paying a fee to claim their prize!
Using our logo, the scammers added one word to our business name to create their Instagram handle and off they went.
Luckily, 99% of our customers could spot immediately that the account was clearly fake and the message was not from us. They reported the account and made sure to block them.
I think that day was the most stressful day in business that we have had, and that's even with a world wide pandemic going on!
We replied to every customer, put up numerous posts and stories to warn people and spent the whole day reporting the fake account to Instagram. It's such a scary situation to be in - you have no control and you're absolutely powerless to do anything.
When it seemed like the scammers weren't going to stop we ended the giveaway there and then. It didn't feel right to continue and risk more people being taken advantage of.
Luckily the fake account was deleted a few hours later. I don't know if they got bored or if Instagram closed it down. You don't get any feedback when you report a concern and we don't even know if it was looked at and reviewed.
It's left us feeling rather deflated and I don't know if we will continue to run these giveaways anymore. Unfortunately these types of scams are happening more and more every day. It's ridiculous that social media customer service is so bad and practically non-existent, they are making billions of pounds from all of us at the end of the day! There are some evil forces out there and more needs to be done to protect people who are using the platforms for legitimate reasons.
With all this in mind here are some tips for staying safe online :
1. Read the giveaway details carefully. When does it end? Which account will contact you if you win?
2. If you receive a message saying you've won - has the giveaway actually ended? If not, why would the business be contacting you?
3. Who is the message from? Look at the name very carefully. Quite often only one letter/digit will be changed in the hope that people won't notice the difference.
4. Look at the wording and spelling of the message. Does it make sense? Are there spelling mistakes? Poor grammar? If you've been following the account for a while you will normally get a feel for who they are online. Does this message sound like something they would write?
5. Is there a link in the message? DONT'T OPEN IT!
6. If you're being directed to a payment site to claim your prize: STOP! There is no reason why a legitimate company would ask you to do this! We always stress in our giveaway details that we will NEVER EVER ask for any form of payment.
7. If you've given your card details contact your bank and cancel your card IMMEDIATELY.
8. REPORT the fake account to Instagram by going to the profile and clicking the three dots in the right hand corner. Then BLOCK the account to make sure you don't receive any further messages from them.
9. Remember - if something seems to good to be true then it usually is!
10. Stay alert, stay vigilant and don't let the scammers win!!!!!
Hattie & Heid x