Fraudsters have targeted Perth Instagram users with scam in which their name, captions and photos have been used to direct traffic to fraudulent OnlyFans pages.
OnlyFans is a UK-based social media platform that locks content behind a paywall. These convincing accounts repost Instagram users’ selfies and scantily clad photos while publicly and privately advertising paid sexual OnlyFans content to their family, friends and followers.
OnlyFans has become associated with digital sex work because it allows explicit content.
However, these scammers link to fraudulent imitations of OnlyFans pages designed to collect personal information and credit card details.
Perth resident Dale Halliwell wasn’t worried when his name and photos were used in the scam until he saw his friends and family falling for it.
“I’ve never really experienced anything of the sort before, but I do know it’s a common occurrence.
“I took action publicly on Facebook stating it wasn’t me and to report it when I found out that people were putting their credit card details into the link,” he said.
WA ScamNet Coordinator Paul Cvejic said fake profiles directing people to illegitimate websites or fake subscription services were common.
“The people targeting Australians are usually located internationally. A lot of the time, it’s an organised set up,” he said.
Instagram verifies public figures with blue badges and automatically flags fraudulent accounts based on a set of triggers.
However, Mr Cvejic said while it doesn’t take long for Instagram to take down pages impersonating public figures, it is a more difficult process for friends and family.
“The account might not get flagged and [Instagram is] reliant on people reporting them to get it taken down,” he said.
Edith Cowan University criminology courses coordinator Natalie Gately said that online scammers were extremely difficult to trace because they crossed international borders and use software to conceal themselves.
“With scams you’re going to lose money which creates a feeling of shame … a lot of people don’t actually live in the online world as much as younger people do so they don’t realise they’re being scammed,” she said.
Under the Criminal Law Amendment (Intimate Images) Act 2019 it is illegal for a third party to redistribute an intimate image of a person without their consent.
It is also illegal to alter a previously released image to be distributed for another purpose, which renders the use of someone else’s Instagram images to advertise pornographic content illegal.
Mr Cvejic said social media users could protect their images and information with their privacy settings by only publicly sharing enough information to identify themselves to anyone who isn’t yet a friend or follower.
“Look out for if a friend or a family member suddenly has a new social media page and they’re trying to follow you or add you as a friend. That’s a sign that their profile might have been cloned and that scammers are behind it.
“Be wary about language changes, the same images being posted, what are they asking you to do? … I don’t think your Mum’s going to ask you to sign up for an OnlyFans page,” he added.
Perth resident Terence Smith’s name and face were used by a fraudulent Grindr account to send anonymous faceless nude photos in an unrelated identity fraud.
“It makes you aware … if there’s any kind of photo of you on the Internet, someone can easily use your identity to put words in your mouth,” he said.