Instagram Collaboration Scams: 6 Red Flags to Look out for!

Black Content Creator | Warning against Instagram Collaboration Scams

Unfortunately, if you are someone with an online presence, you are at risk of being scammed by fake brands who want to “partner” with you.

Content creators and influencers are in the business of wanting to work collaboratively with brands, so naturally we are susceptible to scams OR business propositions that do not benefit ourselves but the brands instead.

To demystify all of this, and to keep you safe, I will share my tips for discerning whether or not a brand deal, or brand, is actually legit, and what to look out for to avoid instagram collaboration scams!

First, I want to say, NOT every brand that is messaging you is an outright scam. 

Nor are they necessarily a fake brand

They could be completely legit! 

…But still, the type of partnership they’re offering might not be something that is worth your time as a content creator. 

So let’s get into the major red flags I look out for to avoid falling trap to instagram collaboration scams.

Instagram Collaboration Scam Red Flags

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otherwise, keep scrolling for red flags that could indicate a brand partnership might be a scam!

1. The “Brand” Sends a DM

When a brand sends me a DM as the first point of communication, my guard is up!

If we are going to start a business partnership, this is not a professional way of doing so.

Further…if they are DM’ing me to ask for my email, that’s a HUGE red flag because my email address is explicitly in my bio. 

Image of ComfyGirlWithCurls Instagram biography, which includes her e-mail - an instagram collaboration scam is to DM or ask for  your e-mail when it is generally in your biography.

It makes me wonder.. did they do any research? Are they mass messaging everybody? What exactly is going on?!

Luckily, this is an easy one to investigate… 

You can go to the brand’s profile to scroll through the photos and see how many followers they have.

You can also check if they have a blue checkmark!

I have been messaged by brands who seem to have all of these bases covered but something still isn’t adding up 🤔. 

The pictures appear to be stock photos or there are the same number of likes on everything. There are no comments and no real people have been tagged in their posts.

And you have to remember…

It’s pretty easy to buy followers and curate all these things to make it appear as though it is an actual business profile.

So make sure to keep an eye out! 

Similarly when you get one of those automated comments on your profile saying:

“DM for a collaboration, we want to work with you, DM us”

Those are almost always bots skimming hashtags, which are mass commenting the same thing.


(If you want to land REAL brand partnership deals, read this!)

2. “Hey sweetie!” “Hey Beautiful!” “Hey Influencer!”

A photo of a woman looking at instagram - an instagram collaboration scam red flag is when a brand messages you with a generic opening.

If I receive an e-mail or DM addressed to anything other than my name, I am immediately suspicious 👀

Messages that open with:

hey sweetie, hey beautiful, hey influencer, hey Comfy Girl Curls

are all giant red flags since they signal to me this is a mass email or DM.

They are essentially copying and pasting, or auto generating everybody’s usernames.

And they definitely didn’t discern who they were sending it to! 

This is not a brand that wants to specifically work with YOU and nurture a proper partnership.

I prefer to work with brands that are intentional with who they want to to partner with, who actually want to foster a good business relationship, and who put in work to find creators who fit their brand’s values.

This is extremely important because having a good foundation will most likely lead to future opportunities with each other.

Related Post – How to Get Brand Deals as a Small Instagram Influencer

3. Poorly Formatted Emails

As a general rule of thumb:

An email that has different fonts, horrible grammar, and bad sentence or paragraph structure it is most likely an instagram collaboration scam!

Unless a company is from a non-english speaking country, if there is improper english in the email, I am weary.

For example:

If somebody’s emailing you saying that they are from Sephora and the email isn’t written in anything close to proper English, then it’s probably not Sephora!

A large corporation will ensure that the communications they send out will be professional!

4. Non-Branded Email Addresses

Any big brand will have a branded, professional, email address.

They won’t be emailing you from a Gmail! 

It’s not going to say collaboration and 

Case and point below:

An image of an email from a generic gmail - an instagram collaboration scam
An email I received from “Shein”

There is a bit of leeway in this branded email rule when it comes to smaller businesses who might just be getting on their feet.

But if that’s the case, I definitely do expect some personalization in this email.

An explanation of who they are and that they’re just getting started at least!

If I receive an email with just plain text and no links to their website or their socials, I am concerned!

It makes me feel like they have something to hide…

This is a major red flag because they don’t want me to explore their socials.


They do not have a website or socials because it is indeed a fake email or from a fake company.

And therefore, a SCAM!

6. Payment for Partnership 

An image of someone handing someone a bag of money - an instagram collaboration scam red flag is when a brand asks you to pay to promote their product

I find it disheartening when a brand invites you to be an ambassador and will only give you a discount. 

Or worse, when a brand asks you to pay for shipping or for the products yourself, and they’ll reimburse you.

Anybody that asks you to pay your own money in order to promote them is not legit!

To me that is an awful method of partnering with influencers and a brand collaboration red flag!


As a creator it is such a privilege to be gifted items and to be offered things at a discount, and we should definitely be grateful for that!

However, we have to remember that we are offering a service. 

So really, at the minimum, we should be getting PAID for these services!

Not paying out of our own pockets for the chance to promote a brand, or paying for the opportunity to do labor that benefits brands and not ourselves! 

Final Thoughts on Instagram Collaboration Scam Red flags

These are the major red flags that I look out for when partnering with a brand.

But I want to emphasize that any individual one doesn’t necessarily stop me from considering the brand or taking them seriously. 

It’s more a culmination or a mix of multiple. 

Unless they’re asking me to pay money to collaborate, that’s an immediate NO!

Let me know what you think or if you have been scammed before below. It is definitely very common in this space! 

Until next time!

x Kaya

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Nicole April 2, 2024 - 2:08 pm

Thank you for this! I get a ton of DMs from jewelry and workout gear « brands » on Instagram. My knee jerk reaction is to block them and I’m glad to see my instincts were correct. Thank you for sharing your expertise !

Reply April 8, 2024 - 5:11 pm

My absolute pleasure!! You had the right instincts for sure!


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