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Instacart Scams To Look Out For (& How to Handle Them)

  • Instacart faces scams targeting both customers and shoppers.
  • Common scams include cancellation, substitution, false item claims, and tip baiting.
  • Instacart actively combats scams with shopper background checks and customer support.
  • Users can report suspicious activities to ensure a safe and trustworthy platform.

Are There Scams on Instacart?

As with almost any online platform, there are scams on Instacart. Some scams are directed at customers, while others primarily affect Shoppers.

Unlike some online platforms, Instacart isn’t riddled with scams. Only a small percentage of Shoppers and customers are there to run a scam.

Most people who use the Instacart app utilize it the way it is supposed to be.

Still, there are quite a few scams, and if you plan to use the platform, it’s best to be aware of the scams and know how to spot them.

Common Scams on Instacart

Below are thirteen of the most common Instacart scams. We’ll also go into how you can avoid them and what to do if you’re the victim of a scam.

  1. Cancellation Scam
  2. Substitution Scam
  3. Damaged & Missing Item Claims
  4. Delivery Theft Scam
  5. Tip Baiting Scam
  6. Fake Verification Code Scam
  7. Reactivation Hacker Scam
  8. Bots and Order Sniping
  9. Rapid Shopping and Fake Delivery
  10. Account Takeover and Fraudulent Orders
  11. Manipulation of Order Contents
  12. Delivery Address Manipulation
  13. Requesting Prohibited Items
  14. Scams Involving Customer Service

1. Cancellation Scam

Shoppers order groceries and receive notification of delivery, only to find their order canceled last minute. Despite the cancellation, they are charged, often amounts like $200, with no groceries delivered.

2. Substitution Scam

Customers order specific items but receive different, often more expensive substitutes without their consent. Scammers use this to inflate bills, sometimes over $100 more than the expected cost, and the customer unknowingly pays the higher price.

3. Damaged & Missing Item Claims

Customers falsely claim that items delivered are damaged to receive refunds, exploiting Instacart’s customer-friendly policies.

Similar to damaged item claims, customers falsely report missing items to receive refunds or additional items, abusing Instacart’s policies and causing financial losses to the company and shoppers.

Customers can also falsely claim that replacement items chosen by shoppers are unsatisfactory to receive refunds, despite previously approving these replacements.

4. Delivery Theft Scam

Some Instacart shoppers have been reported for stealing items during delivery. Customers notice items missing from their orders, which are later found to have been taken by the delivery person.

5. Tip Baiting Scam

Tip baiting is a very common scam on Instacart. It is simple to do, yet highly frustrating to shoppers.

Customers lure shoppers with high tips, which are then significantly reduced or entirely withdrawn after delivery. This dishonest practice exploits shoppers, making them accept low-paying orders for the promise of a high tip that never materializes.

6. Fake Verification Code Scam

Shoppers receive requests from fake customers to call them. Upon calling, they are tricked into revealing a verification code sent to them.

This code is then used by scammers to hijack the shopper’s Instacart account, gaining access to personal and financial information.

7. Reactivation Hacker Scam

Individuals claiming to help reactivate deactivated Instacart accounts contact shoppers.

They ask for a fee and personal information, exploiting shoppers who are desperate to regain access to their accounts.

8. Bots and Order Sniping

Some shoppers use bots to automatically accept the most lucrative orders, denying fair opportunities to other shoppers and compromising the system’s integrity.

8. Rapid Shopping and Fake Delivery

Scammers may quickly mark items as shopped and then falsely claim to have delivered the order, as seen in the original post.

Users should be wary if shopping seems unusually fast and should verify the delivery, especially if only a generic picture is provided.

9. Account Takeover and Fraudulent Orders

A frequent scam involves the theft of accounts, where the scammer shops with the stolen account, keeps the groceries, and attempts to cash out earnings quickly.

Users should regularly monitor their accounts for unusual activity and change passwords frequently.

10. Manipulation of Order Contents

Some scammers may force mark items in the app, substituting them with other products of similar value that they prefer, as noted by a user. Customers should carefully review their order upon delivery and report any discrepancies.

11. Delivery Address Manipulation

Scammers may change the delivery address to a location convenient for them or even ask shoppers to meet in suspicious, isolated places. It’s crucial to adhere strictly to the app’s provided delivery address for safety and compliance.

12. Requesting Prohibited Items

As highlighted in one instance, scammers may ask shoppers to buy items like gift cards or cigarettes, which are not allowed. Shoppers should never purchase items outside the approved list and should report such requests.

13. Scams Involving Customer Service

There are mentions of scammers potentially posing as Instacart support staff. Users should be cautious of any unsolicited contact and verify the identity of the person before sharing any personal information.

How Can I Look Out for Instacart Scammers?

It’s hard to do so. Unfortunately, the Instacart app doesn’t let you select your shopper or vet them yourself.

The app automatically matches you with the best person they have available. The only way to completely avoid an Instacart scam is to not use the app at all.

Keep in mind that these scams are rare and immediately rectified by Instacart or the partner grocery store that the order was purchased from.

The app does its best to vet shoppers, and you’re automatically agreeing to trust its process when making your order.

The best thing you can do for your security is to double-check your order after you receive it. Make sure the total amount, items received, and items requested match with what you ordered.

What Do I Do If I Get Scammed By an Instacart Shopper?

If you see fraudulent activity on your order, you need to report it immediately. You should reach out to Instacart, inform it of the issue, and report your Instacart shopper.

The app gives users four days to self-report an issue with their order. These issues may include missing items, wrongly purchased items, spoiled products, or poor replacements.

Instacart scams typically involve a higher charge and missing items.

How to Report an Instacart Shopper

You’ll need to go to the Orders icon in the bottom right corner of the home screen of your Instacart app.

At the top of the window, you should see a “Get Help” tab under the most recent order, which allows you to report an issue.

Most often, Instacart will offer an instant refund. For certain issues, such as a significant overcharge, resolution may take longer.

You can reach out to its customer service phone line if you’d prefer to directly talk to someone about the issue.

Is Instacart a Trustworthy Website?

Yes, it is. Instacart does thousands of successful transactions daily. However, there are malicious Instacart shoppers who occasionally create trouble. It’s hard for Instacart to prevent this.

The service does its best to ensure only trustworthy shoppers are present on its app, but some scammers still slip through its system.

Instacart runs background checks on all its shoppers and will eliminate any accounts that are flagged for fraudulent activity.

Is the Convenience Worth the Risk?

That’s a decision that’s only up to you. If you love getting your groceries delivered to your home, it may be worth the risk.

The prevalence of scams on Instacart is low, but there’s no surefire way to avoid any risk.

Alternatives to Instacart

If the stories of Instacart scams scare you or if you’ve had a prior bad experience, consider alternative options.

There are similar apps with different vetting options for their shoppers, or local grocery stores that’ll do delivery for you.

1. Shipt

Another solid option for a grocery delivery service is Shipt. This service does background checks on its shoppers using a third-party tool called Checkr.

It has received less press regarding app scams and overcharges in the past few years compared to Instacart.

Some Shipt users have reported third-party scammers sending emails or texts pretending to represent the service. Be aware of this type of message if you decide to use Shipt.

2. DoorDash

As one of the largest delivery apps in the industry, DoorDash has a great reputation for resolving issues that may arise. It does background checks on its shoppers through Checkr but has similar issues as InstaCart with shoppers stealing goods.

3. Order Directly From Your Grocery Store

It’s worth checking if your local grocery stores have their own systems for delivering groceries.

Many of them have dedicated teams that do this. They use their in-house employees to complete the orders, adding an extra layer of reliability.

You can check online or call your local store to ask if they offer grocery delivery.

Wrapping Up

Instacart is a convenient and reliable app, but there’s a small risk with using it.

Instacart shoppers, although background-checked by the app, will occasionally scam the user who ordered groceries for delivery. The app provides quick refunds for these issues, but it’s good to keep them in mind.

If you find that you’ve been scammed, follow these quick and easy steps to inform Instacart of the issue. This will get you your money back and help prevent the malicious Instacart shopper from scamming others.

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