Brand Ambassador Scams — How Companies are Utilizing “Influencer Marketing” to Scam Us All

seeing through the bullshit of brand ambassador programs
Post taken from a Facebook Group

Have you been contacted by one of those brands on Instagram, asking you to collab? It probably looks a little something like this: someone comments on your photo, “hey lovely! dm us to collab,” you get your hopes up, check their account, meh looks kind of promising, follow their instructions to DM them, and then boom: you’re hit with a discount code.

Now…don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with a discount code; however, that’s not exactly a “collaboration” in my eyes. A collaboration is typically when a brand wants to utilize your audience to promote a product and hence, offers you a product free of charge in order for you to organically promote it to your audience.

This is an email from a REAL brand wanting to collaborate

A legitimate brand wanting to work together will ALWAYS email you, especially if you have your email linked to your profile. Also, if you happen to be reaching out to brands through Instagram, nine times out of ten, he or she will instruct you to email them. Nothing good really goes down in the DMs to be honest.

Personally, companies  these fake Instagram brands comment on my photos all the time telling me to DM them to collab, then they just offer me some sort of discount code for 20-50 percent off. Normally, this would be awesome; however, many if not ALL of these online retailers reaching out for people to join their “influencer ambassador programs” are just Shopify stores run by people who are dropshipping their products from China and grossly inflating their prices just to make it look like a great deal.

For example, the site will showcase $60 t-shirts that look completely average, but with your shiny 50 percent off code, it seems as if you’re getting an awesome deal….when in reality, you’re still spending $30 on a t-shirt

…from an online store you don’t know, recognize or trust.

Side note: dropshipping is when an online store uses photos of product they do not actually have in inventory, then order the product after you have purchased it from the photo on their site. Typically, these items are produced in mass quantity and can be imported to a Shopify site from AliExpress, a Chinese version of Amazon pretty much.

If you genuinely like this company who approaches you and would like to put time and effort into becoming an ambassador for them, then all power to you. I just wanted to share my thoughts, since a few people have asked me what to do in this situation and how to respond to these brands. If you are considering joining an affiliate program however, make sure to watch out for the red flags so you don’t get scammed.

  1. Look at their Instagram content. If it’s solely other people wearing their products with absolutely no branding of their own, this means that it is not really an established brand.
  2. If the items are very expensive, b e w a r e. Most of these items are probably very poor quality and are not even worth the price you are about to pay WITH that discount code applied.
  3. If you don’t like many items on the online store, but feel as though you have to purchase something to be featured on their page and join the network, take caution. Because once you promote your affiliate code, chances are no one is going to use it because your audience is not interested in any the products either.

Coming from personal experience, I thought that these brands were somewhat legit at some point and found some cute, affordable items and thought hey, why not?! But, I actually ended up getting screwed over a couple of times by either receiving a product of extremely poor quality, or never receiving the product at all.

These companies are taking advantage of people and these shitty Shopify stores need to be stopped. They aren’t even worth any of our time; however, if you ever aren’t sure of what to say, I’d try this:

“Hey! Thanks so much for the offer; however, I’m only interested in collabs right now, not affiliate programs.”

This way, HOPEFULLY these brands start to take the hint and stop spamming us 1230984 times a day and using the word collab when it’s clearly just their tactic of making money for their shit products.

Let me know if this continuously happens to you to and what your response typically is! I’d love to get a conversation going about this and hear other opinions, even if they conflict with mine. Thanks guys!


46 thoughts on “Brand Ambassador Scams — How Companies are Utilizing “Influencer Marketing” to Scam Us All

  1. Great article! I had no idea about dropshops! And I’m stating to get the DMs to “work with us”. No I know what to do!!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Stacy!! By all means, if you like the products from one of these stores you can still purchase. Just beware!! Thanks for reading.

  2. Thanks Tori on the behalf of all newbies like me who recently made fool by a company. I paid shipment and bought item 40%off only expense. Thanks for making it clear for us that we dont gave to purchase for collab n that company should have budget for that.

    1. Exactly!! I’m so happy that this could shine light on these issues that so many people are having. A true “collab” benefits both the brand AND the influencer.

  3. Yeah they spam my pictures with comments all the time luckily my boyfriends mom warned me about the scam and i didnt fall for it.

      1. I had a few email me personally but now I understand because when some one is sponsoring you they will supply for you

  4. I posted ONE picture of me running a half marathon and got hit up by two IG accounts within a few hours. Both told me they had a proposition for me. The comments were identical and so were both DMs. They’d give me 50% off as an “ambassador” and a 15% commission on any referral sales. No thanks.

    1. Exactly!! And the clothing is grossly inflated in price so that the 50% off actually just makes it normal price. Ridiculous!!

  5. I literally just got this type of comment on my posts on IG and I barely have 100 followers. I was wondering why the heck is this company contacting me? Glad to know it’s a scam. I’m not even going to respond to them. Thanks for the article.

  6. Would you happen to know if Tilt Pretty Active Wear is legit? Or maybe you can look into it for me-since you seem to have the eye for it. I have received emails from them- based on my instagram status (THEY TAG ME IN THEIR POSTS). They want me to purchase items at a discount with free shipping.(INTERNATIONALLY) They have a website (very small – not too many items but very cute) payment is through paypal only. (i found this odd) Can’t find them anywhere on social media other than insta. Basically they are offering features for their magazine after posting a photo in their active wear. I don’t want to fall into a trap. Being a brand ambassador is something I’d really like.

    Not sure what to do…

    1. Hi Helene! I definitely would NOT purchase anything from this company. They sound like they’re spamming you and under no circumstances should a brand ever be tagging YOU in their posts. This sounds like a case of someone utilizing drop-shipping to run an online store. If a brand is reaching out to you for your content and services, they should AT LEAST be providing you the product/item they’d like promoted.

      Trust me, if it seems sketchy, it most likely is!

      Hope this helped! Xx

    1. Hi there! I personally wouldn’t take a collab if they required that I pay for shipping costs because if anything goes wrong and the clothes don’t end up showing up, then I still lost out on money. If it is a reputable brand, they should never ask you to pay for shipping; however, if you’re just starting out and need clothes / collabs to get you started, then either ask for more product or ask them to pay for the shipping if you provide them with 20 photos for their social media/website/etc.

  7. Great article indeed, I have recently received more than 5 comments asking for a collab offering me a 25% discount and others offering me 100% discount but I have to pay for my own shipment. At first I was very excited about being an ambassador. But on second thought, I thought it was too good to be true. So I decided to do some research about it. And I’m glad I found your article. You really helped me.

    1. Ahhh I’m so sorry to hear that! Feel free to follow up with me on Instagram (@tori.nucci) where I will be able to reply faster and help you out!

  8. I got another one this week – they seem to be proliferating lately.

    On Jun 24, 2020, at 3:31 AM, Olivia Read wrote:
    My name is Olivia and I am the Head of PR at the International brand, Bliss Body
    We came across your Instagram profile and LOVE your style. We’d love to have you as one of our Brand Ambassadors. To celebrate our new Sportivo collection, we want to give you a FREE pair of leggings so you can post a picture of you wearing them and drive more exposure to our brand.
    Being an Ambassador will also get you commission from the sponsored post(s)! An easy way of making money with Instagram! I’ll leave below some key points
    – You will get a discount code so you earn 25% commission per sale
    – Our IG page is @myblissbody
    – Ambassadors only have to cover shipping, which depends on their country
    – Ambassadors have 40% off store wide!
    – Meet amazing new friends!
    – If this first collab goes well we can setup another 🙂
    – Chance to be featured on Bliss Body Instagram

    How does that sound? Let me know if you’re interested so we can move forward with this and I’ll send all the details + show the leggings!
    I look forward in hearing from you!
    Bliss Body
    London, United Kingdom
    Amazing! I’ll send below all the details 🙂
    and when I said ok:

    Here is our new Sportivo Leggings, you can go ahead and order your favourite color to officially become an Ambassador:
    Once you´ve ordered your FREE pair (just cover shipping) please send me:
    · Your Paypal email so you can receive 25% commission per sale (paid every Friday)
    · You will also get a welcome email containing our ambassador perks
    · And this is your unique ambassador code to place on your post caption: xxxx your followers get 15% off by using it
    Looking forward to have you on our team!
    Olivia (Head of PR)
    Bliss Body
    London, UK

    1. Hey love! 40 percent off is NOT good! Do not support a brand that is not valuing you or your content. Feel free to DM me over on Instagram if you have any other questions! (@tori.nucci)

  9. Hey! Here because I just got one of these comments/dms at only 200ish followers. I already filled out their “form” and got a code. My next step is supposed to be ordering one of their items with 50% off. Thats when I started getting slightly spammed with overbearing messages to “order quickly so we can enter you into this epic ambassador’s raffle,” that seem rather bot-like.

    Wondering how you would suggest proceeding? Definitely feels like a scam. I already filled out the form, but with no money spent yet, I haven’t risked getting too screwed over I don’t think. Other than spam messages and potential emails lol

    1. Ugh sounds about right! If it feels like a scam, it most likely is! Trust your gut and don’t go through with ordering. Even with the 50 percent off code, it is just a marketing tactic – they overprice their items so it seems like you are getting a deal!

  10. Hi Tori!

    Would you happen to know if ACTA is a scam? I really think they are because I also fell into the trap of buying in order to become an ambassador and I’m still waiting for my clothing! It’s a month already!

    1. Ahhhh I’m so sorry to hear that! They actually look pretty legit to me and I haven’t heard anything negative about them! I hope that your items reach you, love!

  11. Hey Tori! This is such a great article, thank you. I was recently dmed on Instagram by a Brand Supervisor of Cuzette, a jewelry shop. She said I would be able to choose and receive 3 items for free. Was wondering if you know about this brand and if it seems legit?

    1. hmmm im not sure about Cuzette! As long as you don’t have to pay for anything (including shipping) then you should be fine!

  12. Thank you so much for this article. I recently came across something like this with a makeup company Sopfeel cosmetics. I was really sceptical with the whole 50% off, i feel miserable for falling for it.

  13. The company that reached out to me had the same phrasing but they gave me 100% discount. I only had to pay shipping then they posted me on their story. However, right after i had 2 other companies “randomly” message me about DM’n them. That’s what made me suspicious. Do you think this was a scam?

  14. I had a company comment about the same thing on a post of mine. They did offer 100% off. I just had to pay shipping. However, after that i had like 2 other companies comment on the same post which made me suspicious. Do you think this was a scam?

  15. I had a company comment about the same thing on a post of mine. They did offer 100% off. I just had to pay shipping. They also posted my page on their story. However, after that i had like 2 other companies comment on the same post which made me suspicious. Do you think this was a scam?

    1. I would never pay for shipping!! I think that they use the shipping costs as a way to make money somehow… I don’t trust brands that make you pay for shipping!

  16. I got a comment and I dmed them within 5 minutes I had 6 other accounts that had commented so I searched for articles and found yours most of them seem legit but I’m not sure thanks the article is very helpful I’ve deleted the comments and moved on

  17. can youo also discuss those brands that give you the products for “free” but makes you pay for shipping fee. (the worst i have encountered so far was charging me for over $60 for shipping) good thing i do not have money, i have nothing to spend.

  18. How would you suggest opting out AFTER paying the shipping for the “free” products and given the generic ambassador discount code? Their page has every red flag you just listed.

    1. opting out of posting? you don’t have to post anything at all if you don’t want to! hopefully you receive what you ordered!!

  19. I have been falling for this lately unfortunately, while trying to build a new IG page for a certain purpose (not just my own private page). I will only do it if I only have to pay for shipping, and I’ve found that some companies immediately give me a place where I can sign in and track my referrals, times my code is used, and my commissions. Other companies say that when I receive the products I’ll get my discount code for my followers. The companies which provided me a way to track my commissions, are they legit, or not? And it’s all on the same website goaffpro. Then there are some which give me the promo code for my followers right after I pay for the shipping. Please let me know what you think!

  20. I have been receiving comments and DMs on my Instagram page every time I post a new “bikini” photo. I like to reply back to them just to see what they say, & it’s literally all the same wording & process as the next. I actually did sign up and get “free” items through a brand ambassador company just yesterday to see if it’s legit or not for my own eyes.

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