How to Protect Your Expert Brand in a World of Sensationalism

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This is a scary, new world we’re all living in, one where someone won’t think twice about spinning a fake sob story with the sole intention of swindling you out of your life’s savings or social security number. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there was a 70% increase in the amount of money that consumers reported losing due to fraud in 2021, reaching over $5.8 billion. More than 2.8 million people reported fraud just last year alone, and chances are you’re one of them or know someone who is.

Sweepstakes, lotteries, goods and services, business deals or know-how, and even job opportunities. People everywhere are losing thousands of their hard-earned dollars on these fake ads and promises. 

Spotting a Scam(mer)

It’s imperative that everyone knows how to protect themselves and their wallets, so we’ve brought together some experts who shared with us how you can spot a scam before it’s too late.

There are many different scams out there, but one on the rise is fake jobs/job ads. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently released information about getting a good side hustle without getting scammed, and that information can apply to staying safe from a number of job-related scams.

Here’s some of their best advice:

  • Do your research. Look up individuals and companies that are approaching you for work. Check out their websites, their social media pages, and reviews. If it doesn’t look legit, it probably isn’t.
  • If you’re using a freelance site, stay on it. Many sites will say this when you sign up, but it’s worth another mention. If you are working through a freelance site, you need to keep your work there. Clients that try to get you off the site to complete work for them or pay you through unverified methods are typically trying to scam you.
  • Avoid atypical pay. Scammers can get you with fake checks or by telling you you need to pay to apply for a job or to receive a position. If you get a check before doing any work, it’s probably a scam.
  • Put everything in writing. Put all the details of the work you will do in writing, the timeline it needs to be completed, and the pay that will be received. A signed contract is a great way to protect yourself.

Social Media Scam(mer)s 

Many scams take place on social media, as this type of environment is a great place for relative strangers to interact with one another. A prevalent scam that takes place on social media is the Instagram bot scam.

This type of situation often occurs when a fake account (bot) messages you or comments on your posts pretending to be someone they aren’t. They may offer you a fake job, tell you your account is in trouble, ask for money, pretend to be a business looking for influencers, etc. 

These scams take place so often that Instagram compiled information to help their users determine if their interactions were a scam or the real deal, and here is some helpful information they provided:

  •       If there is no blue checkmark next to their name on their profiles, then it’s likely a scam. A real influencer or affluent business will have the check mark to verify that they are legitimate.
  •       If the profile has no posts, weird posts, no followers, or a lot of followers but very people they follow, chances are it’s a fake account.
  •       If the message or comment you received is riddled with poor grammar and typos, it’s definitely a scam. The same advice goes for it: they try to send you some type of company logo but it isn’t placed right or looks different than it usually does.
  •       Any message discussing you giving them money in any way is absolutely a scam.

If you see that scammers are trying to communicate with you, or you just aren’t sure, visit Instagram’s help center, report the activity, and make sure you don’t click on any links they share or engage in communication.

Speaking of Spotting the Real Deal

There are two sides to every coin, and not everything that might appear to be a scam actually is.

Because scams are so prevalent, there are honest people and businesses getting accused of being scammers when they really aren’t, especially now that side hustles are on the rise.

This situation just recently happened to a well-known YouTuber, Sean Rakidzich, the leading expert and educator on short-term rentals. What happened to Rakidzich is a great example of what to do when you get called a scammer but aren’t one.

Rakidzich creates YouTube videos aimed at teaching his viewers how to be successful with short-term rentals. In addition to his videos, he also provides courses on his website. A fellow YouTuber made a video claiming that he might be a scammer and just wanted people’s money.

“Integrity and virtue are strong beliefs and you’ll never have to wrestle a real claim against your character. Though you do need to recognize the damage a false claim can cause if responded to improperly,” said Rakidzich. “A person’s reputation is defined by their own words, not those that cast accusations. When you speak in your defense, you’ve now presented your case to the court of public opinion. Maintain an executive presence, act in empathy, seek neutrality and not victory. Seek understanding, not justice.

Because it’s important to be able to tell if the person you are paying for a good or service is reputable, we asked Rakidzich how you can prove that you are when you are being accused of scamming. Here are some tips that he shared (and what he did to fix the problem):

  • Counter their claims, point-by-point, with facts and proof. When accused of being unsuccessful with his own short-term rentals, he explained why his calendars show so much availability while also showing his calendars from the previous year. Breaking down his occupancy percentages and explaining the booking of rentals such as his.
  • Don’t attack the person. A common fallacy when it comes to arguments or confrontations is ad hominem, or attacking the person instead of their claims. This never works and can even make it look like you are guilty of what they are claiming. Focus on what they said and not necessarily who they are.
  • Use it as a learning opportunity. If someone claims you don’t know what you are talking about, prove them wrong. Use the situation as an opportunity to teach them and your audience about what you do.
  • Break down the services you provide. Nobody works for free, but if someone is claiming that you aren’t providing a real service, explain in detail what you do for others.

Some other ways to tell if the business or person is legitimate? They will have a real website with reviews from real people.

Amy wrote, “Since starting Sean’s community, I have grown my business from one home to nine properties and am netting 100k a year so far. This has been such a blessing for me. I am already having great success this year, and all of my places have been booked since the start of the year. I have also been able to generate monthly repeat visitors and referrals.”

Andrew said, “I have taken other gurus’ courses before Sean’s and all I have to say is this is the only advice that works in different markets and conditions. If you want a winning business model and coaching to keep you accountable and attain goals, Sean is who you want to learn from. I am now over 12 properties in, easily getting 20k+ a month.”

Rakidzich handled the snafu in the best possible way and his advice can help you identify scammers for yourself in the future. Learn from him and be careful when it comes to your money.

“Testimonials are a modern day trust currency. Integrity is your shield,” he said. “In a world where creators exist strictly to defend the masses from online scammers, Coffeezilla being one of my favorites, the best defense for your online reputation is to commit to a code of conduct well before you ever have the temptation to do something off-color for the money.”

About Sean Rakidzich

With over $10 million in revenue generated as an Airbnb host, Sean Rakidzich (previously of Airbnb Automated) is the leading expert, entrepreneur and influencer in short-term rental education and operations on the Internet. He will soon be expanding his teachings beyond just Airbnb to include Peerspace, Turo, VRBO,, and more. For more information, please visit


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