Since July 2021, a cryptocurrency scammer with the fake name "Melissa Jackson" (@melissa_jacks0n) was able to build up an Instagram following of 452,000 users.
The account featured stolen photographs of an online marketing educator named Amy Porterfield. We reached out to Porterfield to alert her of the unauthorized usage of her pictures.
In addition to building up a large following (some of which may have been fake accounts) and stealing photographs to pretend to be someone named "Melissa Jackson," the crypto scammer was also allowed by Meta, Instagram's parent company, to pay to advertise on the platform. We reviewed ads in both the Instagram Feed and Instagram Stories placements that recently appeared on at least three separate days.
The way that the crypto scam appeared to work was similar to how others we've reported on have operated. The account asks to chat privately on Messenger or WhatsApp. Meta also owns both of these services. In a private chat, the scammer promises an investment opportunity by mentioning words such as bitcoin, forex, or other terms. They then direct the potential victim to send a specific amount of funds through a website or mobile app, claiming that an investment can be withdrawn in the future. However, once the money is sent, it's gone.
The "Melissa Jackson" Instagram account showed no company name or website, despite claiming to provide "financial services." It simply had a link that would open a private chat in WhatsApp. None of the scammer's posts described anything specific in terms of how money would be invested. The statements made in the user's posts were all very generic.
In addition to all of these red flags on the "Melissa Jackson" Instagram account, we also noticed that several posts showed doctored pictures of people holding up signs.
These photographs were altered as if the people in the pictures were helped by the scammer. However, these photographs of people holding signs likely came from clients of finance personality and radio host Dave Ramsey. Once out of debt, Ramsey's clients often pose with a sign that says, "We're debt free!"
We reached out to Meta to ask about the "Melissa Jackson" Instagram account and will update this story if we receive a response.