11 Instacart Scams To Avoid

instacart scams

Instacart Shopper Scams: How They Work

Watch out for a series of Instacart scams happening these days. From suspicious Shoppers, overcharges, and calls to bad replacements, tips, and customer service, here is what to look for. As an Instacart user myself, I’ve compiled a list of 11 fraudulent activities to be aware of. But first, a quick overview.

What is Instacart

Instacart is an on-demand grocery delivery and pickup service that allows customers to order groceries and other household items from their favorite local stores through a website or mobile app. Instacart connects customers with personal shoppers who pick and pack the items from the stores and then deliver them to the customer’s doorstep. It boomed over the coronavirus pandemic.

Amongst  the participating supermarkets in the United States and Canada are Costco, Safeway, Walgreens and Woodlands.

instacart shopper scams

Needless to say, with its popularity, a lot of Instacart fraud comes with it. Without further due, here are the most prevalent Instacart shopper scams below:

1. Instacart Code Scam

The crooks lure shoppers into making phone calls outside the official Instacart app in this scam. Once the Shopper makes the call, they receive a “verification code” and are instructed to relay it to the scammer. By doing so, the scammer gains access to the Shopper’s account, making it impossible for the Shopper to regain control.

I found this Instacart scam the most dangerous of all. To avoid it, please communicate exclusively within the Instacart app and never disclose personal information to external parties.

If you suspect you’ve encountered this scam, promptly contact Instacart’s customer service to report the issue and secure your account.

2. Instacart Overcharge

When you ask an Instacart Shopper to get specific items, they should only bring those unless you say otherwise. Unfortunately, some Shoppers misuse this and sneak in more things you should have asked for.

These Shoppers sneak in extra stuff but don’t deliver your order. They end up with free groceries or money, leaving you with nothing.

You can ask Instacart for a refund, but it might take a few days.

Check out the video below to see how this scam victimized a family:

3. Damaged Items

Instacart ensures that the stuff you order is in tip-top shape. The Shoppers won’t buy anything that looks broken or messed up.

For example, they only pick fresh veggies or any other food. If your groceries aren’t up to snuff, Instacart will give you your money back.

But watch out for some tricky folks. They might try to get freebies by giving one-star reviews and saying their stuff was wrecked. They might even send fake pictures of the supposedly damaged goods. Photoshop is the king these days.

Even though Shoppers usually don’t pay for broken stuff, bad reviews can hurt their chances of getting good orders. Too many bad reviews can get them kicked off the platform.

4. Instacart Scam Calls

Another fraudulent scheme involves scammers masquerading as customers and coaxing shoppers into communicating outside the official app. After accepting a batch, the Shopper is instructed to call the scammer.

Once the call is made, the scammer sends a “verification code” and instructs the Shopper to reveal it. Upon sharing the code, the scammer seizes control of the Shopper’s account, locking them out and altering their login credentials, including sensitive banking information. Here’s how this scam unfolds:

  • After accepting the batch, the scammer, posing as the customer, texts the Shopper, asking them to call outside the app.
  • The Shopper calls but receives no answer, continuing with the shopping and sending two texts to the customer about the call and completion.
  • The supposed customer informs the Shopper that they never made the order and requested a refund via customer service.
  • The Shopper receives a call from an unfamiliar number, the scammer posing as an Instacart representative, regarding the suspected fraud on the order.
  • The scammer persuades the Shopper to confirm a verification code received via text.
  • When the code is provided, the scammer takes control of the account, modifying login and banking details.

5. Instacart Tip Scam

Here’s how this trick works:

  • A customer makes an order and tips the Shopper generously.
  • The Shopper completes the order using their Instacart card.
  • After the delivery, the customer lowers or removes the tip, leaving the Shopper without the promised earnings.

By giving a good tip upfront, customers can get faster and better service, especially when they need their shopping urgently.

6. Wrong Replacement Items

Instacart has a way to handle items that are out of stock. You can tell them what you’d like as a replacement when you order. If you don’t give instructions, the Shopper might message you to check if you’d like a replacement.

Some customers exploit this. They say okay to a replacement but later complain it’s terrible. Instacart refunds them.

There is little you can do about this as a Shopper, but it can harm your ratings. One thing you can do is take screenshots of customer messages. It might not do much, but it could help if Instacart deactivates your account.

7. Shoppers Stealing From The Order

Some Instacart Shoppers do sneaky things and steal your stuff after they deliver it. But here’s the thing: Instacart and you can keep tabs on them with GPS on their phones. Instacart has rules to make sure your stuff stays safe.

However, this one time, a Shopper got caught swiping a mail package after the delivery. The thief came back without their tracked phone.

Luckily, the owner had captured the act on their Ring door camera and posted it online, shaming the Shopper. She returned the items, although in bad shape.

8. Instacart Forums

On the internet, there are forums where people exchange information and have discussions, but there’s a darker side, too. The Instacart scam forum is where folks with ill intentions share tricks for cheating Instacart shoppers and customers.

These forums often pretend to be official Instacart groups, fooling unsuspecting users who seek help from fellow Instacart users. But these scammers aim to get your personal info and money.

9. Fake Instacart Customer Service

Scammers pretend to be Instacart support and target people with deactivated accounts. They’ll contact you and offer to reactivate your account for a fee.

10. Bogus Complaints

Sometimes, Instacart customers make fake complaints to get refunds. They report missing or damaged items, wrong replacements, and overcharging. To avoid these problems, drivers should be careful and follow these tips:

  • If you deliver the wrong item, contact Instacart support immediately.
  • To prevent damaged items, pack them securely.
  • Ask customers for replacement suggestions if an item is unavailable.
  • Take a picture when using “Leave at My Door Delivery.”
  • Keep receipts for any overcharging issues.

Instacart is working to stop these fake complaints, but drivers should still be careful to provide excellent service and watch out for scams.

11. Instacart Bots

To get how the scam works, you first need to know how the Instacart app works for Shoppers. When you order something, it goes in a queue. All Shoppers in that geographical area can look at their app and choose from the orders.

There are a couple of issues for Instacart Shoppers. First, they can only take one order at a time and have to finish it before taking another. So, they can only do as many orders as they’d like in a day, just like Uber orders.

Second, getting orders can be challenging in big cities with lots of Shoppers. Some Shoppers cheat by using bots, outside apps that work with Instacart. Some bots tell Shoppers when new orders pop up. Other bots grab offers for the Shoppers. But using bots breaks Instacart’s rules.

While this is not a scam per se for the buyer, it often causes delays and complications, leading to complaints, returns, and eventually bad reviews.

Instacart Scams Targeting Shoppers

Are you an Instacart Shopper? Watch the video below to see 10 Instacart scams targeting you:


How To Report Instacart Fraud

Let your family and online friends know about these Instacart scams. Feel free to share the article if it was helpful. Meanwhile, you can report scammers and any other suspicious Instacart activity to both Instacart and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) using the page below:

Report to Instacart Here

Report To The FTC Here

How To Protect Yourself More

If you want to be amongst the first to receive alerts about the newest scams every week, subscribe to our Scam Detector newsletter. You will receive periodic emails from us with insightful tips. That will include advice on how to prevent fraud and information about the newest tools you can use to fight crime.

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selma hrynchuk
Selma HrynchukSelma is a fraud prevention specialist renowned for her expertise in private eye investigations and a remarkable partnership with law enforcement agencies. Beyond her investigative triumphs, her public speaking engagements and written works have empowered countless individuals to protect themselves and stay ahead of deceptive schemes. Selma's legacy shines as a tenacious agent of change, unyielding in her commitment to battling fraud and ensuring a safer world for all.

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