We’ve been trying to reach you about your vaporizer’s extended warranty? You’ve won! Meds! Lights! This Tent! Promote it! Let us find you followers to maximize your growth potential as an influencer in this newly influential market!
If this is a prompt you’ve seen, heard, or experienced; you might be familiar with being plugged into the system. The junk mail you know and love is just a sad reminder of yesteryear. Children don’t know the joys of a ‘buyersecret or buyersedger’ as most adults would, as a cheap rag of expired coupons trying to lure people into a steam cleaner subscription. The landscape has changed with targeted ads on games, or stealthy-in game purchases being what kids are told to watch for now. Technology has changed the grift of luring someone into the shop with coupons, with the purchasing of in-game upgrades on a free-to-play game. If the favorite con of advertisers using non-reputable tactics and calling it proven results in commercial media has changed, does that mean the obvious scam has also changed? Yes, we are no longer in the era of faux check mailers, or Nigerian princes wanting to share their fortunes with you.
We have entered an age of targeted attacks that use your phone’s metadata to track your interests so they can craft something to effectively scam you. If that frightened you, it should, because that reality is at your door and the tech-horror of being stalked by a microchip has already been reality in your smartphone for years. The data long-gathered from apps, online purchases, and cloud-use is never guaranteed as safe or disposed of properly. This means people could be looking at sensitive information, and though this may not be the often protected personal data, it is still valuable. Starting small with the classics like “Click here for savings”, “Save Money With”, then it moves to “Were you looking for,” and “Did you mean.” These are harmless, but the technology is using targeted ads which look at your browsing history or what you’ve purchased online. You might then see more ads for a game or app that are tailored to your tastes, be it Warcraft or the stock market. Finally, you give in and download the app since it’s free and you know not to buy any upgrades, but then a younger sibling or child tries it out, only to drop cash on armor, or in-app currency with no refunds or cash value. If you can’t relate to any of this, and you dismiss the notion that anything could outwit you using your own interests, I would still encourage you to heed this warning because it gets even scarier.
You are careful, banking in person, not allowing apps into your data, microphone, or camera, and you are opposed to the cloud. You have a small friends group that you keep up with over a popular app as a ‘friend’ or ‘follower’, and you only invest in confirmed accounts of bands, events, or major brands to be safe. Well, you are not, because the scams don’t rely on your data anymore either. There seems to be two schools of scammers rising in the ranks of modern technology. The first are the classic scammers like a group, pyramid business or call center that imitates a known retailer to obtain your information. The second would be a bot, or an automated program based on an algorithm, that identifies your interests, then imitates and obtains your information. Both scenarios are unnerving, and both are very real, and it has all entered the realm of cannabis.
The shocking revelation has been a long-time coming, starting with giveaways from paper, pipe, and other lifestyle companies. You would often see these companies targeted but quickly identified and flagged for removal a few years ago. This was because the individual interests were easier to police then, before cannabis became essential. The term changed the public image of cannabis, and opened a new market to many while connecting existing interests of those associated, scammers included. The most recent and prominent tactic has been on Instagram, with scam pages imitating a larger retailer. The page will usually be easy to identify, with low post count, no tagged photos, and a cross section of followers not shared with the main page. It will keep improving as I just recently found a known vendor with what I thought was an administration page. The page was built well for a long time, with regular posts that lined up with the main page in the style of a backup page. Speaking with the vendor, I was not tipped off by any of the normal red flags when talking to a scammer.
The ruse had gotten me to even suggest others who would be targets of the scam with my point being, it could be anything or anyone that fools you. The question then becomes, how do I prevent this, which isn’t really easy to answer without knowing your online footprint. The best advice is to pay attention and use common sense when approaching any new contacts on any platform. Don’t give out personal information under most circumstances, and make sure that any website visited is secure. Verify everything you can, and finally, Don’t Agree to Anything in Writing! Beyond that, use resources like reporting to report the page as well as any pages associated with the fake. Utilizing the block feature is also important because it draws attention when a page is suddenly blacked hundreds of times. If you recently changed your account settings, this is not a plea telling you to change it back either, because real personalities, companies, and influencers will stay in the spotlight. The plea goes out to marketing managers everywhere to please protect your brands, and make a sweep for fraudulent pages part of your job’s weekly routines. To the Budtenders in dispensaries, talking to the people, do your best to warn them about these dangers while you open up their Instagram permissions.
Adrian Ryan was born in New Mexico and attended school since elementary in Arizona, his time growing up split between the two states. He hopes to work towards recreational cannabis, enjoys reading, writing, film, music, and also writing music.