I’ve noticed a new scam sweeping across Instagram lately and for some reason, it appears to be very focused on the wine community. No, it’s not the whole “influencers” debate, but an actual, old school case of fraud that has manifested itself via the emergence of very convincing fake wine Instagram accounts.

On my Instagram account, I follow several thousand wine-related accounts which is why I started taking note of accounts that oddly start following me. I say “oddly” as I had to think for a minute and wonder, “I thought they were already following me, no?” and it was only after searching around that I discovered that yes, the actual account in question was indeed following me and this new one, was a fake.

For some reason I’ve seen this initially on accounts here in Spain (probably as those are the majority of whom I interact with) but it was this recent one for Simpsons Wine Estate in England that made me realize it’s a more widespread problem than I’d previously thought which is why I’m bringing attention to it.

Here’s Simpsons’s actual Instagram and here’s the fake (if suspended as of this writing, it’s the lead photo above.) Besides one being public and the other being private, it’s hard to spot the difference as everything has been perfectly copied from the real account, including the website link. The main item to note is that the real one is “simpsonswine” whereas the fake is “simpsonswines“. I saw another that was “torelloviticultors” and “torellovitticultors”.

So if the website is the same link as the original, how exactly are they enacting a scam? After all, a phony website would seem to be what they would spoof to lead you into some kind of Bitcoin or Nigerian prince inheritance scam.

I was fooled into following one of these accounts several weeks ago and here’s how it works. As soon as you follow them, they send you a DM with a message about how you’ve won a very expensive wine prize (I believe mine was a bottle of Petrus) and to claim it, you write back with all your personal details, bank account, etc. Obviously, that’s not going to go anywhere good if you do, so don’t do it!

How to spot these fake Instagram wine accounts?

As you can see, a great deal of work has gone into copying actual accounts in detailed form, so what are the markers that stand out?

  • Private account
  • Some kind of misspelling in the URL name
  • Very few posts
  • Following far more than follow them

If in doubt, search for the account in question (or look for it on their actual website) and more than likely, you’ll find out that you’re already following it and it follows you back.

What to do if you spot one?

  • Use Instagram’s “Report” function to report the account and that it’s “impersonating someone you know”
  • Write to the real account holder to let them know as they might very well not
  • Post word of it on social media to warn others and get more people to report it

Unfortunately, Instagram’s reporting mechanism is quite weak and you need a lot of responses before they’ll act on something. I’ve seen a number of these discovered some time back and they’re still around despite being reported, so take care!

The people behind this are really putting a massive amount of work into it and making it very tailored to the wine crowd. I could almost admire the effort if it weren’t energy being used for nefarious purposes.

Stay vigilant!


7 responses to “The new Instagram wine scam”

  1. Bengt Sj枚berg says:

    This should be an even more clear warning to anyone exposed to the scam:
    “to claim it, you write back with all your personal details, bank account, etc”. Why should they need your bank account to send you a bottle of wine?

  2. Simon Heape says:

    Thanks for the heads up

  3. Molly S. says:

    We’ve had this problem a few times now. We found that filing a trademark infringement with Instagram resulted in the fake accounts being taken down faster than when we’re just reporting.

  4. Paul Forget says:

    I have been quite vigilant in the last few months. I have almost notice some bizarre activities lately. I never follow people with one post only but recently I say a post with an account that I did not recognize. After looking into it, I was following them, they where following me and I had like their first of only two post. But I did definitely not see that post or like it 馃え Any idea?

    • Miquel Hudin says:

      Maybe your account is hacked? Change your password and set up two-factor authentication. Other than that, I don’t really know what it could be outside of “Drunk Liking”?

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