Skincare gadget company The Skin Glo tricked Instagrammers into buying its product

All of the women tell the same story of how they were scammed. A company called The SkinGlo emailed them with a tempting deal: it was looking for content to fill its Instagram feed, and its team had chosen them to help. In exchange for five photos of them using The SkinGlo’s electric face scrubber — even photos taken just from their phones — they’d receive €450, or about $525 USD. They could even watermark the images and only send over a clean file once they got paid. It seemed like a good deal.

There was one small catch, though. The women would have to buy the company’s face scrubber themselves, with a 50 percent off discount code, bringing the total to €40, or about $48.

Although that stipulation was slightly odd, the company still seemed trustworthy, the women say. It has a website that’s basic but colorful and clean. Its Instagram page has over 12K followers, and at one point, it was filled with tons of positive comments on its posts. One woman says the page even talked about a partnership with ASOS, a popular apparel retailer, and linked out to its page. Seven women tell The Verge they bought the scrubber.

That’s when the company ghosted. After taking and sending photos, none of the women heard from The SkinGlo again. Nothing’s been posted to its account since October, and all comments are disabled. The Verge messaged seven women who confirmed they weren’t paid, although the scam’s scale is unclear, as is how the company found their accounts. We’ve reached out to The SkinGlo for comment and haven’t heard back.

From these seven women, the company made over €200 and sold seven pieces of inventory without having to pay for marketing, advertising, or comped products. All the people behind SkinGlo had to do was send some emails and correspond a few times with the women.

“The fact that they’re asking for payment, it’s just a way to guarantee that they’re getting money in their pockets rather than supporting the creative side of doing the work for them, really,” says Lauren Clitheroe, a photographer who made a YouTube video about what happened.

This scam did a couple of things right to convince the women to press the buy button. For one, a person claiming to work in The SkinGlo’s PR department emailed everyone instead of relying on DM.

“The email looked very professional,” says Rachel Gross, an online creator who got duped.

The company also sent over a link to a webpage that detailed “partnership terms and conditions” and emailed a contract that didn’t have to be signed. The company told the women that buying the product and letting the team know was equivalent to signing.

“I said, ‘Okay, if there is a contract that makes me feel a lot better because I know it’s a legal thing,’” says Clitheroe. “They have to stand by what they’re saying, or at least so I thought.”

Another creator, Kristen McCleary, says her husband read over the contract and flagged some concerning clauses, including one that said the contract was beholden to the laws of Malta. But she figured $50 wasn’t too much to gamble to make over $500. The company eventually ghosted her, without even receiving the photos she took.

“It was definitely a scam, and I’ve not emailed them,” she said. “And I’m certainly not threatening a lawsuit for 50 bucks in international, Malta law, whatever that is.”

The scam could have been worse, of course, but the women also lost hours of their time shooting and editing photos, as well as money and pride. Clitheroe says even more so than that, the company preyed on people during an especially tough year, which is unforgivable.

“Myself and my husband, we both lost our jobs at the beginning of this year, right as the pandemic started, so we were struggling a little bit for a few months,” she says. “There will be people in that same boat because of the pandemic, and it’s taking advantage of people in a desperate situation.”

Multiple women have posted about the scam on their accounts, where others then chime in that the same thing happened to them. There are nearly 20 reports on Trustpilot, a website that collects user reviews, warning people not to collaborate with the brand. One poster, from yesterday, says they almost agreed to order the product but thought again after reading the comments.

Gross says seeing the other women who were tricked made her feel slightly better. Generally, though, the takeaway for her is to not be tempted into promoting brands she doesn’t already love.

“I promised myself a long time ago that I would not post about products that I don’t like or personally believe in – I will not be bought,” she wrote in a post about the experience. “And I let myself down.”

Although, as she also notes, the scrubber wasn’t so bad and felt nice on her face, and the photos she took didn’t go to waste. She still got a nice post out of it.