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2019-11-13 18:00:21

Self-identifying entrepreneurs are flaunting wealth they don't have on Instagram to sell followers mentorship services (not pictured).Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Instagrammers who flaunt a fake or overblown image of wealth have met their match.

Since February, an Instagram account called @BallerBusters has been calling out these frauds, which it dubs #FlexOffenders — self-identifying entrepreneurs who show off a fake, lavish lifestyle to sell young followers services like mentorship programs or online classes, reported Taylor Lorenz for The New York Times.

These services can cost thousands of dollars, but aspiring entrepreneurs end up paying for bad advice, Lorenz wrote, adding that some scammers hire subcontractors to teach their own classes.

Lorenz calls them a new breed of scammer — typically, men whose Instagram profiles consist of corporate headshot avatars, large (and possibly purchased) followings, and a feed of cars, money, and jets.

After a process that involves everything from examining legal filings and screenshotted messages from those who said they've been scammed to talking with industry experts, @BallerBusters typically busts the scammer on Instagram stories, Lorenz wrote.

We're not TMZ or a review page — we actually do investigative journalism, the account's administrator told her.

A @ballerbusters post exposing a #FlexOffender.@ballerbusters

Instagram is all about bragging and influencing

Millennials are giving money a new look, according to Larissa Faw in a piece for Forbes.

They will vacation in Ibiza with their buddies or fly to New York City for the weekend, Andrew Moultrie of Extreme International, a sports-lifestyle brand rich millennials favor, told Faw. They see the richness in the storytelling of having an experience, rather than buying one expensive item.

And they love to show off these experiences on social media. What affluent millennials prioritize is the awesome group photo that can be posted on their Facebook wall, Faw wrote.

Look no further than the  Rich Kids of the Internet (RKOI) to see the extent to which Instagram has become a bragging platform. Their feeds are filled with everything from luxury cars and yacht trips to luxury beach vacations — but who knows which of these kids is actually rich?

More fake influencers could pop up on Instagram

Wealthy millennials are taking to social media not just to flaunt their riches, but to exert influence over trends. Influencers' clout is increasing, and it's shifting the power dynamic in the luxury world, according to Marc Bain for Quartz.

The rise of Instagram as a means to display wealth and extend influence has created the perfect cocktail in which #FlexOffenders can thrive.

And more fake influencers could pop up now that Instagram is considering hiding likes on posts in the US, Joe Gagliese, the CEO of the influencer marketing company Viral Nation, told Business Insider's Amanda Perelli. This week, Instagram began testing the feature for US users, and it may cause brands to find alternative ways to measure engagement, Perelli reported.

But that's not what Gagliese is concerned about. It's easy to buy followers, but getting likes to align is hard, he said. Now that people don't have to make sure their likes correlate to their following, one of the easiest ways to spot fraud, this will create more fake influencers in my opinion.

By Gagliese's account, if the feature is fully implemented, @BallerBusters might soon have some more busting to do.


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