What Happens When You Actually DM a ‘DM to Collab’ Instagram Scammer

I tried it. Here’s what I learned.

Zulie Rane
OneZero
Published in
6 min readNov 23, 2020

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Photo illustration; source: Tim Robberts/Getty Images

I recently started posting regularly on my Instagram account, and I have about 1,200 followers. But I wouldn’t call myself an influencer, unless I’m influencing people to write more and drink coffee, which is pretty much all I post about.

My main goal, as anyone who checks out my account would be able to see in an instant, is to have a nice place to post selfies and share a bit more of my real life. It’s not to sell anything — I don’t have a single sponsored or branded post on my feed.

Nevertheless, brand after brand after brand leaves eerily similar comments on my feed, asking that I DM them to “collab.”

Screenshot from my IG account

The first time I got this comment, honestly, I was a little flattered. I checked out the account, realized it sold random stuff, and figured they’d made a mistake.

The second, third, fourth, and umpteenth time it happened, I was annoyed. Then, I got irritated. And finally, after blocking, banning, and reporting what felt like dozens of these, only to have new iterations continue commenting on my posts, I landed on inquisitive.

What did these spam brands actually want? Surely it wasn’t actually to collaborate. Why did they often comment and ask me to DM a second, bigger account? I wasn’t sure. And how on earth were they finding me and my content? What was their strategy?

I decided to look further into three brands that I received this mysterious DM from: Shop Valerio, Brute Impact, and Urban Ice.

Here’s what I found: These brands are fake from start to finish.

They all have upwards of 100,000 followers, which might incentivize people like me to want to work with them. When I first checked out one account that had messaged me a request to collab, called Brute Impact, they claimed to have 223,000 followers, so if I were featured on their page for wearing their clothes, I would have hoped to get a couple hundred followers.

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Zulie Rane
OneZero

Writer, cat mom, marketer. Get my weekly newsletter to grow your blog: https://zuliewrites.ck.page/3e3d3a8187