Ladies, Beware of Instagram Brand Ambassador “Scams”

A rant on how scammy marketers target women online for profit.

Hello ladies,

Imagine that you’re having a great day. Such a great day, in fact, that you want to share your feeling with your friends on Instagram. You make an awesome selfie with a great caption. You decide to throw in some hashtags like #explorepage, #me, #feelingpretty, and so on. The picture is posted on Instagram and suddenly you have a direct message!

“Hey, we love your pictures! Can you be our Instagram brand ambassador? Please let us know ASAP!!!!”

Wow! Me? A brand ambassador? Like other Instagram models and celebrities? Sounds exciting!! Their store looks pretty good. They have a lot of other girls representing the brand. They have a ton of followers. Sign me up!

“Our item(s) typically cost about $100-300, but you can pick something for free and promote it on your page with your coupon code. We will pay you!!”

FREE? Yes, please 🙂

Instagram Scam

Typical Instagram brand ambassador “scam” product

“Look at our site, this watch costs $250. You can promote that! We will send that for free and if someone uses a coupon code, we’ll pay you $50!”

Awesome, send it to me!

“All you have to do is pay shipping of $19.99”

Castella Media Instagram Girl

Umm, you want to send me a $300 watch for free but don’t want to pay the shipping cost of it? At this point some ladies, blinded by the high “retail price,” would still jump on this “financially beneficial” opportunity. They pay the ridiculous shipping price of $19.99 and wait. Wait. Wait a week. Two weeks. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7 weeks!!! Finally, it’s here. Shipment box is from China? Huh? I thought the store was in USA. Let’s just open it! It’s…. it’s…… not exactly what the picture showed. What is this cheap looking thing?? It kind of works but doesn’t look that fancy. I guess I should promote it with my coupon code. Oops, this thing already broke!!

So what happened? Here is the decade-long secret on how many many many many many internet marketers make easy money:


Yes, the item that you have received for free and paid $19.99 shipping for is actually listed on AliExpress for $8.49 with shipping to USA. Yes, with shipping.

This has been going on since the early 2010s. Here is the basic formula:

  1. Find a cheap product on AliExpress (up to $10 with shipping)
  2. Create a website that sells the items at a much higher markup ($49.99 with shipping)
  3. SPAM SPAM SPAM offering the item for FREE but only charge a shipping fee that you can make a profit with. For example, if it costs $6.99 for the item with shipping. Give the item away for free and charge $14.99 for shipping. That’s about $6-7 in PROFIT after various fees.
  4. Go to AliExpress and buy the item and ship it to whoever paid your shipping fee.
  5. REPEAT. Buy Facebook ads promoting “free” offer. Keep spamming “free” offer.


Ali Express IG Scam

Same product can be found on AliExpress for a fraction of “shipping price” paid

The beauty of this whole operation is that the person who is running the store never actually holds inventory. This person is just a middleman collecting profits selling Chinese knockoffs. That’s why it takes 30-60 days to receive the product and when you do, it’s a total disappointment. The only reason why we’re putting quotations in the word scam is because technically – you’re buying a real product. Yes, it’s a knockoff, but the store is allowed to upcharge as much as they want. The store is allowed to charge whatever they want for shipping. However, it’s still scammish because everything about the brand and the item is misrepresented.

At this point, these scammed ladies come to a crossroad on what to do next – promote the product and get $50 for every “fool” who buys it, or just move on. Unfortunately, many do promote their “free” brand ambassador products – not because of just financial gain, but an appearance of being wanted to be represented by brands. However, they’re only scamming their own followers and it’s highly unethical.

It’s not all bad out there

There are some legit companies looking for brand ambassadors, but they will never charge you for anything. If they do, you’re basically nothing more than a customer. Stay vigilant, ladies. Don’t let these marketers take advantage of you.

PS: if you do accept items, please don’t use your real address. You should probably set up a PO Box at your local shipping & packaging store.

-Russ Castella @russ.castella