The web guides to becoming ‘the Kim Kardashian of fraud’: New wave of social media ‘influencers’ are encouraging thousands of followers to commit scams, BBC probe reveals
- Social media ‘influencers’ are using sites like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok to promise illegally earned funds of up to £4,000 according to a BBC investigation
- They offer guides on scamming banks, retailers and the Universal Credit system
- Some have more than 150,000 and call themselves ‘Kim Kardashian of fraud’
- Experts say it’s nearly impossible to catch them as they leave no digital footprint
A new breed of social media ‘influencers’ are encouraging their thousands of followers to commit scams.
They openly brag about their luxury lifestyle funded by illegal means in an attempt to become what they jokingly describe as the ‘Kim Kardashian of fraud’.
And unlike most influencers that legitimately promote fashion and beauty products, the con artists lure recruits with slick adverts promising earnings of up to £4,000 on sites such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
Some have more than 150,000 followers and describe themselves as ‘fraud consultants’.
They offer guides explaining how to scam banks, major retailers and even the Government’s Universal Credit system for between £30 and £100, a BBC Panorama investigation revealed.
A new breed of social media ‘influencers’ offer guides explaining how to scam banks, major retailers and even the Government’s Universal Credit system for between £30 and £100
Private details are stolen using phishing scams and then sold on the social media sites. This involves sending fraudulent texts or emails that appear to come from a legitimate source to dupe victims into handing over their personal information.
Parcel delivery texts now most common con
Scam texts about parcel deliveries are now the most common type of con-trick.
The public gets three times as many scam texts from crooks posing as couriers as those pretending to be from a bank, the latest data shows. The messages, exploiting the pandemic boom in online shopping, accounted for more than two thirds of all scam texts reported over the past month.
Fraudulent texts typically contain a link to a fake website that asks victims to enter personal data. The thieves may claim the recipient has missed a delivery they need to reschedule or that they must pay a shipping fee.
Laura Suter at investment firm AJ Bell said: ‘Last year scammers stole £479million from unsuspecting people through these scams… Everyone thinks they are smart enough to spot a scam text but the messages have become so sophisticated.’
Once users have these details, they can buy and follow the influencers’ guides that explain how to make online purchases or take out a loan in someone else’s name. Online fraud – which the influencers refer to as ‘clicking’ – has soared during the pandemic and reached an estimated £262million last year.
But experts warned it is often ‘nearly impossible’ to catch those responsible because they leave ‘no digital footprint behind them’.
The Panorama investigation found one con artist using the alias ‘Uncle Vio’ on Snapchat offering to build a fake website and send 4,000 phishing texts for £115. Another influencer known as Tankz – who has more than 150,000 followers across their social media sites – sent an undercover reporter a guide for £100.
A link was sent via social media that provided access to 43 files on an online storage system with detailed instructions on how to exploit online retailers.
On Tankz’s YouTube account, a video in which he rapped ‘I’m a London scammer – I see it, I want it, I click it’ had gained over six million views.
Cybersecurity expert Tim Ayling told the programme, which aired on BBC1 last night, the influencer wanted to be the ‘Kim Kardashian of fraud’ – meaning they flaunt their wealth online like the reality star but unlike her, fund their lifestyle through scams.
Panorama said it believed it had identified Tankz as a London university undergraduate who was living in student accommodation in Wembley, north-west London.
Cybercrime specialist Jake Moore claimed it’s difficult to find the culprits.
He said: ‘Anonymous accounts are leaving not just a small amount of breadcrumbs to investigate – there are no breadcrumbs. There’s no digital footprint left behind them. So to investigate this is nearly impossible.’
The ‘influencers’ brag about their lifestyle funded by illegal means in an attempt to become what they jokingly describe as the ‘Kim Kardashian of fraud’ (pictured – Kim Kardashian)
TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube all said they do not allow fraud on their platforms and were constantly shutting down criminal content.