An Instagram “black market” for verified badges has been uncovered.
People are paying company insiders and “middlemen” thousands of dollars for their accounts to be verified, according to a report in Mashable.
Instagram is said to be aware of the practice, which is described as an “open secret in the influencer community”, but appears to be struggling to shut it down completely.
The verified badge – a blue crest with a white tick – has become something of a status symbol across social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
However, while any user can apply for their account to be verified on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is much more exclusive.
As explained by Mashable, the form you need to complete to get your account verified isn’t publicly accessible, but open to “former employees, current employees, big media and entertainment companies”.
Some of these are willing to submit verification requests in exchange for payment.
The deals are struck by middlemen, who communicate with the buyer and insider, and charge their own fee on top.
According to Mashable, a verified badge can cost “anywhere from a bottle of wine to $15,000”.
People with verified accounts can earn a lot of money by promoting brands and products in their updates, with some companies willing to pay so-called “influencers” thousands for a single post.
One seller, called Alejandro Rioja, claims to have got 12 accounts verified, and says the process usually takes between two and six weeks.
Verification requests could be sent to Mr Rioja through his Facebook Messenger bot, which is currently unavailable. When it was working, it said: “Verification is simple, you need: 1) Press around your page; 2) A contact at the social media company that you want to be verified on. (I have the contact)
"If you want to work with me, the cost of verification is $1500 for Facebook, $2500 for Twitter, $6000 for Instagram.”
However, there are risks involved.
An insider submitting a verification form needs to attach their name to every request they make, and Mashable says employees have lost their jobs because they were caught selling verified badges.
According to another middleman, called James, the process is becoming harder and insiders are cutting down the number of verification requests they submit.
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