Sudan Meal Project: Instagram Scammers Exploiting Support For Protesters

The BBC has reported that scammers making bogus claims about sending aid to Sudan in exchange for clicks have continued to crop up on Instagram despite the exposure and suspension of fraudulent accounts, some of which had hundreds of thousands of followers. This serves as a reminder of the opportunistic nature of scammers on social media services and the need to be sceptical of accounts claiming to donate food or supplies or fundraising for a crisis. 

Expert Comments:

Satnam Narang, Senior Research Engineer at Tenable: 

“Based on our own analysis, Tenable found over 100 accounts that had amassed nearly 900,000 followers, all of which falsely claimed to support Sudanese civilians. While the Sudan Meal Project account gained nearly 400,000 followers, another account, Sudan Awareness Help, had 245,000 followers. We tracked many of the accounts as they performed what we call an “account pivot,” where they changed their names, usernames, profile images and bios while simultaneously removing all references to the Sudan Meal Project or Sudan Awareness Help. Some users created brand new accounts before pivoting, while others turned an existing account into a Sudan-related hoax account in the hopes of gaining followers before pivoting back.

Taking advantage of those sympathetic to the crisis in Sudan is a heartless endeavour and it just serves as a reminder of how amassing followers and likes is one motivating factor for scammers on social media platforms. While this remains the primary modus operandi for these scammers, some went so far as to link to questionable GoFundMe pages, while others included a link to a PayPal account in an effort to solicit fraudulent donations.

Although many scammers operated such accounts for personal gain, some could sell the accounts for profit, given their large and lucrative following.” 

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