An Edmonton business owner is sharing her experience with a social media scam.
Jara Wu is the co-owner of Encore Medical Rejuvenation in west Edmonton and runs the company’s Instagram account.
“That’s where we get 90 per cent of our clients from,” she explained.
“We invest a lot of money in our pages and Instagram makes a lot of money off of us.”
Last month, to celebrate Encore’s one-year anniversary, it announced a giveaway.
According to Wu, the next day, an account popped up impersonating theirs.
“I had a bunch of people messaging me that this account was spamming them telling them they won this giveaway and to click this link,” Wu said.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), social media scams like this are on the rise and happening more than we know.
“What we see is… five per cent of what’s actually out there,” said Jeff Thompson, senior RCMP intelligence analyst with the CAFC.
“They’re using that account typically to target followers of the good business with sort of a phishing scam.”
Thompson noted in 2020, internet and social media scams accounted for $22 million in reported losses.
“They’re harvesting personal financial information,” he said.
“From a business perspective, it’s the brand of the business, so the people with the good accounts — their businesses may be impacted by these fraud accounts.”
That’s exactly what Wu said happened in this case.
Only adding to the frustration, Instagram took her account down without explanation.
“I was shocked that I got disabled and not them,” she said.
“I basically had a pit in my stomach when this happened. It was devastating — and just to think all of the work I put into this literally over the last six years.”
The account was disabled for two weeks and eventually reactivated last week, she explained.
“I did notice a drop instantly from not having the page,” she said.
“Thankfully, it was only two weeks, but Instagram is huge.”
However, she spent $2,000 on a lawyer to help get it back up and running.
“They sent a demand letter and all the communication is done through them,” Wu said.
“Money well spent, because you lose more money without having that account. That’s another thing that’s frustrating — is you don’t own your Instagram account – I’m aware of that.”
Her advice to other businesses finding themselves in the same problem is to create back-up accounts.
“We rely on it and it could be gone tomorrow,” she said.
The CAFC urges people to watch out for red flags, like people asking for cash or financial information.
“Typically with sort of fraud communications… something’s off about the communication. It’s not the way the business would normally communicate with you,” Thompson said.