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The two Turkish Instagram influencers who were caught up in an online scam have been released on bail after two months behind bars.
Simge Barankoglu, who boasts over 900,000 Instagram followers, and Yesim Aydin, who has 158,000 Insta fans, were among a group of 20 suspects arrested during simultaneous raids in the Turkish provinces of Izmir, Istanbul, Ankara, Kastamonu, Karabuk, Malatya and Mersin on November 9.
Barankoglu and Aydin helped publicise a social media game that asked players to pay money for alleged “taxes” before they could receive a large “cash prize”.
The glamour models are among 20 people accused of defrauding 250 people across Turkey for around three million Turkish lira (About £223,000) over a six-month period.
Both women insist that they weren’t aware that they were part of a scam, and claim that they had innocently accepted an offer to advertise the game without realising it had been organised by fraudsters.
In a statement, Barankoglu said: "I make a living by doing advertising on social media. I thought this was like any other advert. I do not know the parties and the complainants. I do not accept the accusations.”
Aydin said: "I make a living with social media adverts. These people contacted me and said they wanted to work with me. I accepted because that's my job. I would never have accepted it if I knew that fraud was being committed."
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She added: "The police told me that the names given to me were fake. I didn't try to defraud anyone. I did not contact anyone, I did not ask for money. I just got the advertising fee. I am very sorry."
In coordinated police raids across Turkey, investigators seized a number of computers, mobile phones, USD memory sticks, SD cards, and other equipment that had allegedly been used in the online scam.
Following a court hearing on 7th January, the two influencers, who had been in prison for 56 days, were released by the court pending trial.
The status of the other suspects is unclear, and it is not yet known when the trial will start.
Instagram has been increasingly targeted by fraudsters in recent years. Cryptocurrency expert Jason Sallman says he has been plagued by dozens of fakers pretending to be him in a bid to dupe users into handing over money.
He says the fraudsters take his photos and add them to their own account to make their posts look convincing.
“It’s super creepy and they’ll even sometimes make up their own captions for things like, ‘Oh, I’m so happy with my family now that I made all this money from mining’,” he says.
“There’s a little function inside of Instagram where you can report an account,” he told CNBC.
“And then they’ll review it and sometimes it could take them as little as two hours to respond, sometimes it takes days, sometimes they never respond.”
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