Sex Workers Getting Scammed on Instagram Need Help From Meta

Sex Workers Getting Scammed on Instagram Need Help From Meta

Like any other morning, trans content creator Lana Madison woke up and grabbed her phone. She checked her OnlyFans income, where she ranked in the top 0.06 percent of earners, and then her Instagram direct messages. Since Meta, parent company to Facebook and Instagram, frequently deletes performers’ pages, Lana maintained two accounts where she posted photos of herself dressed in short skirts. A man messaged her main page — it was always a man — saying he could help her get her account back if she lost it. She ignored it. Why was he offering a solution to a problem that didnt exist? Lana wondered.

The next day, Lana woke up, and her main account was gone. The same man contacted her on her second page, offering to get her access to her lost page. The bounty: $2,000.

“I felt like he had scoped me out, the same way a robber cases a house before breaking into a home,” Lana says. “And I wish he had broken into my house instead of stealing my Instagram. If someone robs my home, I have insurance. If someone takes my social media pages, I lose tons of future revenue. You can’t insure your Instagram account as an OnlyFans creator. This was a nightmare, and it’s a nightmare OnlyFans creators keep living.”

I am well aware of these problems. For over a decade, I’ve worked as one of the leading MILFs in the adult industry. I have witnessed over and over again my friends and I losing our social media accounts, only for some scam artist to direct message us, offering our accounts back in exchange for a bounty. Worst of all, these scams often work, and once they work, adult performers get targeted again and again. Many in the adult industry have refrained from discussing this problem in public but with so little information available about who these scammers are and how they operate, we need to raise the alarm so Meta and other tech behemoths can investigate. (Meta declined to comment for this article.)

Many performers are facing this problem several times a year. For instance, Lana didn’t pay because this was the second time she’d been targeted by a scammer. Months earlier, a different man contacted her after Meta took down her account. She paid him, and he somehow reversed Meta’s decision. She discussed the scam with those close to her in the aftermath, and three of her friends had dealt with similar con artists. Some got their accounts back, some didn’t. Lana was sick of it.

Thankfully, for reasons Lana still doesn’t understand, Meta reversed their decision to close her account. Meta never messaged Lana with an explanation, but she regained access to her Instagram. Her friends weren’t all so lucky. Some paid scam artists only receive nothing in return. “It’s happened to three of my friends,” Lana says. “They’re all trans.”

When Lana told me this story, I wasn’t surprised. I myself have been in similar situations. My trans colleagues, however, seem to face account deletions and scammers more than anyone in the adult industry. Although there isn’t data on this, I hear way more about trans girls facing social media discrimination than my cis performer colleagues. Social media companies remove their accounts. Trolls target them daily, harassing them and tracking down their family members. The list of digital drama goes on and on, and, for whatever reason — possibly because they’re reported more often —  tech platforms seem to delete trans performers more than cis performers. In my experience working with trans girls, they face way more stalkers, harassers, and overall digital trolls. The internet punishes them for being trans, and this fits an awful pattern: The increase in deletions equals more messages from con artists, and these scams are popping up more and more with the rise of artificial intelligence. They raise several important questions both about sex work and the state of the major tech platforms.

To understand these questions, you have to know how the scam works. Here’s what typically happens: One of my social media accounts goes down. Suddenly — in a way that feels too quick to be a coincidence, though it’s unclear exactly how they might get an account down taken down — a stranger contacts me via Twitter DMs or email. They promise they’ll get my account back if I pay a price. Sometimes, they claim they have an inside man at Meta.

Performer Abigail Mac has received these messages after losing her account. “It’s people that work at Instagram,” Mac says she believes. “[They’re] extorting them and just stealing their money.” 

In her most recent ordeal, Mac says, Meta took down her account then she received a message from a scammer, offering to retrieve the account for $15,000. They swore the account would disappear forever if she didn’t pay them in 24 hours. She replied that she would get her account back herself.

“Then they asked me what my budget was,” Mac says. “Every day [they] would knock some money off. It’s such a scam.”

The scarier scenario occurs when someone messages you are saying, “Hey, save my stuff in case you lose your account.” Then, whoopsie doodle, lo and beyond, your account’s gone. Now, when I receive these messages, my stomach drops.

The worst part is when I’ve paid these people, it’s often worked. They’ve retrieved my account. I’m thankful for that, but it raises questions about how these people operate and what they know, not just about sex workers’ Instagram accounts, but everyone’s. How do they get the accounts back? Where do they work when they’re not retrieving sex workers’ accounts? How do they communicate with Meta to fix the problem? And why does your account get deleted over and over again once you pay these people?


“Once you pay, they know you will pay and keep doing it,” Mac says.

Girls have paid up to $20,000 and have not gotten their accounts back. It’s plausible these scam artists message a girl, report her account, and then contact her via another avenue, such as Twitter or email. But there’s no way to know for sure. For all the talk about the dangers of social media, from teenage anorexia rates to smartphone addiction, the public pays little attention to the harms sex workers face on these sites. (Unless a porn star is fucking a president, you’re not going to see her on the cover of the Wall Street Journal.) We need Meta to investigate the problem and identify what has gone wrong before more people get scammed. 

Original Source