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Insta-scam targets fans of popular Winnipeg market

Third and Bird, co-founded by Charls Smeall (left) and Chandra Kremski (right), has been around for nearly a decade. Joe Scarpelli/Global News

Social media scammers appear to have set their sights on popular Winnipeg market Third + Bird, its founder says — creating fake Third + Bird accounts on Instagram and luring people with ‘giveaways’ in order to snag their credit card info.

So far, the scammers have made off with around $7,000.

Chandra Kremski told 680 CJOB the activity has turned a fun, joyous holiday giveaway into a nightmare — both for Third + Bird itself, and for the small business owners who take part in its events.

“I woke up yesterday to my text message and my direct messages inbox on Instagram just exploding with people saying, ‘oh my goodness, you’ve been hacked,’ Kremski said.

“Someone had made five fake accounts in my likeness, using my own personal photos of my face, and other various photos — and using the same words, ‘Third + Bird’, but maybe just doing using a double ‘n’ or a double ‘i’ or double ‘d’, so it’s very difficult to catch.”

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Kremski said the market is in the middle of a large-scale giveaway contest, and the scammers appear to be piggybacking on that to steal unwitting customers’ credit card and ID information.

“They’re scamming people for their credit cards, telling them Third + Bird chose them,” she said.

“When you trust a brand, you go with it … and from there, your Apple IDs are stolen, credit cards. It’s awful.”

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Kremski said she’s doing what she can to remind people on social media that they should never give out personal info — especially financial details — via social media, and that if you’ve won a prize, the most a legitimate organization will ask for is an email address.

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The false accounts have been reported to Instagram, but having them removed is a slow process, and as of Tuesday morning, they were all still active.

“I feel like it’s really ramping up,” said Kremski.

“This is the second time it has happened to me. I know that a couple of bigger companies reached out to me yesterday saying this had happened to them too, and once you receive a certain number of followers, you can be targeted by these scam accounts.

Third + Bird isn’t the only organization being targeted by scams over the holidays.

Read more: Winnipeg grocery store owner says numerous customers have been victims of Bitcoin scams

A senior RCMP intelligence analyst at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told Global News last week that merchandise scams are happening “en masse” at this time of year.

“From people not getting anything at all, to people not getting what they ordered, to getting counterfeit goods,” said Jeff Thomson.

“If you see greatly discounted products, especially brand-name products, that sell for thousands of dollars, but you’re getting it for a couple hundred, that’s certainly a big red flag.”

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Thomson said he encourages shoppers to always trust their gut.

“If it (seems) too good to be true, it probably is.”

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