Travel dreamers beware: Fake Instagram accounts offering free flights
Last night, as I was waiting to take off from the DFW Airport in Texas, I came across the following promise on an Instagram account labeled Ray Ban America: “Follow and share this account and get a free pair of Wayfarers.”
While it turns out that this account was created by someone trying to make a point under the handle @greedyamerica, other fake accounts have shown up enticing would-be travelers with great deals and giveaways from some well-known travel brands.
CNET reports that fake Instagram accounts have been created for JetBlue, American Airlines, and Delta Airlines. The accounts, found under @americanairlines_giveaways, @united_giveaways, @jetbluegiveaways, and @delta_giveaways, all promise free flights or round-trip tickets to their first followers.
Instagram has since taken down the most popular of fake accounts, but not before the accounts garnered fairly significant followings – @delta_giveaways was on track to break 20k before being removed and @jetbluegiveaways was not far behind.
Despite the widespread coverage of these fake accounts, a bundle of impersonators remain, such as @unitedairlinesgiveaways with only 49 followers. Other scam accounts are @jetblue_giveaways, @jetblueairlinegiveaway, @jetbluegiveaway_, @deltaairlinegiveaway, @deltaairlines, @delatairlines_giveaways, @deltaairlinesweepstakes, @deltadomesticoffers, and @americanairlines_free.
JetBlue has even gone so far as to create a Promoted Tweet to inform their followers, and the community at large, that these accounts are fake and that JetBlue is not responsible for their content:
A spokesperson from JetBlue responded as well, saying that they were working to discredit these accounts.
It’s was disheartening to see these individuals attempting to take advantage of our customers and damage our brand, particularly as we were trying to help our customers, and communities recently impacted by hurricane Sandy’s passing through the Northeast.
Many folks were happy to follow these dummy accounts in case – for whatever reason – the airlines had decided to generously give away all kinds of free travel to their lucky new followers. @kvanderson, below, said it was “#worthashot.”
@greedyamerica, the account behind the fake Ray-Ban account, posted the following comment to their Instagram feed:
53,000 people backed and reposted something that was backed by 0 truth. Ray-Ban had nothing to do with this account from the start. Don’t let yourself be manipulated by false promises any further. Think for yourself.
The account continues on their main user page:
Whether you realize it or not, there are people trying to manipulate you, all around you everyday. Open your eyes, think for yourself, and #befree.
Regardless of the legality/intelligence of @greedyamerica’s attempt to make a point by duping 53k people, there is a vital lesson to be learned here for all companies active on social media.
If your company has not secured variations on their names across platforms, now is the time. Don’t let anyone co-opt or endanger your brand by neglecting to cover all possible variations on the company name. Also, remember that social media moves quickly and so must you – if you can’t afford someone to manage a channel effectively, then consider dropping that channel altogether until more resources can be allocated.
And for all of those getting duped, most of the time it really is too good to be true.
Nick Vivion is a reporter for Tnooz, based in New Orleans, USA.
His passion for travel technology led him to travel around the world shooting travel videos for Current TV and Lonely Planet TV in 2006 and 2007.
He shot on Mini-DV, edited on a white MacBook, uploaded and shared online as he traveled. His moxie for travel video has resulted in over two million views on his YouTube partner channel.
In addition to travel, Nick co-founded of one of the web’s most talked about LGBT media sites, Unicorn Booty, and has gone "blog-to-brick" with a bricks-and-mortar restaurant called Booty's in New Orleans – serving street food from around the world.