Instacart Scams (7 Examples + How to Avoid Them)

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Instacart stands out as one of the most widely used delivery services in the United States, offering convenience for customers who can fulfill their essential shopping needs without stepping outside their homes.

As a shopper, it provides an opportunity to earn a side or full-time income by assisting customers with their grocery orders. While Instacart offers a valuable service, it’s essential to be aware of potential scams that can impact both customers and shoppers.

Some Instacart scams target customers and others primarily impact shoppers. It’s important to note that while scams exist on Instacart, they do not dominate the platform. Only a small percentage of individuals, both Shoppers and customers, engage in fraudulent activities.

Familiarizing yourself with common scams, such as those involving missing items, extra charges, or overcharging, empowers you to recognize potential red flags and take appropriate action.

1) Shoppers Using Bots

The shoppers using bots scam targets shoppers who use Instacart app. When you order groceries through Instacart, the order joins a line, and all nearby shoppers can see and choose from these orders.

Each shopper can only handle one order at a time. After you finish one delivery, then you can grab another.

This might seem okay, but in busier places where lots of shoppers are competing, it gets tough. Some shoppers are turning to bots, which are extra helper apps that work with Instacart.

Some bots tell shoppers right away when a new order pops up. Others are sneakier – they grab offers on behalf of the shopper without them doing anything.

Now, using these bots is a big no-no according to Instacart’s rules. You’re supposed to play fair. But, in bigger cities especially, some shoppers are breaking the rules with these sneaky bots.

Instacart says they’re trying to stop this bot business, but it’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole. They shut down one bot, and another one appears.

2) Damaged Items

Instacart makes a big promise to customers – only top-notch, perfect items will make it into their shopping carts. When Instacart Shoppers grab groceries, they’re on the lookout for fruits, veggies, and everything else in tip-top condition. If something looks a little banged up or not quite right, it stays on the shelf.

Now, here’s where the trouble starts. Some people try to pull a fast one on Instacart. They get their order, maybe everything is just fine, but they want a little extra. So, what do they do? They head to the Instacart app, slap a one-star review on the shoppers, and claim that the item was damaged. Sneaky, right?

To make it seem more real, some customers even take pictures of the so-called “damaged” stuff. But, here’s the deal: Instacart doesn’t play games with damaged goods. If something’s not up to snuff, they’re ready to give the customer their money back.

Now, for the shoppers, it’s not all smooth sailing. Even if they don’t have to reach into their own pockets for these damaged items, those one-star reviews can sting.

Why? Because the reviews decide which orders shoppers get to see. If you’re stuck with a lower star rating, you might miss out on the big-paying orders.

3) Missing Items

Ever experienced missing items when ordering through services such as DoorDash? Apparently there’s a similar scheme happening with Instacart, exploiting the company’s goodwill.

Instacart, just like DoorDash, assures customers that they’ll get all the items they order. If something is out of stock or can’t be delivered, you won’t be charged for it.

While shoppers may occasionally make mistakes and overlook an item, scammers can take advantage of this. They place an order and later claim they didn’t receive an item or even the entire order, sometimes giving the shopper a one-star review to cause them trouble.

To protect yourself, always take a photo of where you deliver the items. If, for example, you leave the items on the customer’s front porch, snap a clear picture showing both the items and the porch.

By doing this, you create a visual record that can be used as evidence in case someone falsely claims an item is missing. If such a situation arises, report it promptly through Instacart customer support.

4) Extra Items

This scam involves extra items and unexpected charges. Some Instacart customers have reported finding additional charges for items they didn’t order.

Instacart Shoppers use a card issued by Instacart to make purchases on behalf of customers. This card has a limit based on the order’s total cost, with a small line of credit available for replacements if needed.

Some unscrupulous shoppers exploit this system by adding extra items to the order. They hope customers won’t notice the additional charges, enabling them to either keep the extra items or return them for cash or gift cards.

As a customer, preventing this scam is tricky, but there are steps you can take. Before selecting an Instacart shopper, carefully read through their reviews. Doing this gives you insights into their trustworthiness and help you make an informed decision.

If you fall victim to this scam, contact Instacart customer service to request a refund for the unauthorized charges. You can also share your experience by leaving an honest review about the shopper.

5) Bad Replacement Items

Instacart has a process for handling unavailable items when customers place an order. To deal with this, customers can specify their replacement preferences upfront.

If a customer hasn’t provided any replacement instructions and an item is out of stock, an Instacart shopper can reach out to the customer through messages to inquire about a suitable substitute.

The sad reality is that some customers exploit this system. They might agree to a replacement but later report it as a bad choice, indicating their disapproval of the chosen substitute. This results in Instacart refunding them for the item.

As a shopper, preventing this situation can be challenging, but there are steps you can take. One option is to capture screenshots of your conversations with customers.

While this may not provide a direct solution, it can serve as evidence to support your case if, for any reason, Instacart considers deactivating your account.

6) Overcharging

When you place an order on Instacart, the shopper is supposed to stick to the items on your list unless you’ve given them the green light for substitutions. Unfortunately, some shoppers add extra items to your order without your knowledge.

The real kicker is that they might not even deliver the order to you. Instead, they end up with what amounts to “free” groceries or extra cash, leaving you with nothing.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you can request a refund through Instacart, only that the refund process may take a few days.

To protect yourself from this overcharging scam, it’s essential to keep an eye on your order and verify that all the items delivered align with what you ordered. If anything seems off, don’t hesitate to reach out to Instacart customer support immediately.

7) Instacart Fraud

Instacart fraud happens when either a shopper or a customer manipulates Instacart’s policies and system for personal gain. It’s taking advantage of the rules to benefit oneself, but it ends up hurting everyone involved.

Instacart, as a company, is pretty efficient at refunding customers for problems that arise during the shopping and delivery process. When there are too many refunds, it can lead to increased prices for everyone. Essentially, fraud affects not just the individual but the entire community of Instacart users.

To protect yourself and the Instacart community from fraud, it’s crucial to be diligent about checking star ratings. If someone has experienced fraudulent behavior, they’re likely to share their experience through a review. These reviews serve as a valuable tool for others to make informed decisions about shoppers and customers.

How To Protect Yourself Against Instacart Scams

Review shopper ratings and reviews – One effective way to protect yourself from Instacart scams is to carefully review the ratings and feedback of Instacart Shoppers before selecting them for your order.

The platform provides a rating system where customers can share their experiences. A high rating indicates that the shopper is likely trustworthy and provides excellent service. Additionally, take the time to read reviews as they can offer valuable insights into the shopper’s reliability and professionalism.

Document interactions and deliveries – As an Instacart shopper, safeguard yourself by documenting your interactions with customers and the delivery process. Take clear photos of delivered items, especially if you leave them at the customer’s doorstep.

In case a customer falsely claims missing items or disputes the delivery, these photos can serve as evidence to support your case with Instacart customer support.

Stay informed about common scams – Knowledge is a powerful defense. Familiarize yourself with common Instacart scams such as overcharging, bad replacements, or fraudulent claims of missing items.

By understanding these schemes, you can be more vigilant and recognize potential red flags during the shopping and delivery process. Staying informed empowers both customers and Shoppers to navigate the platform more securely.

Promptly address issues with customer support – If you encounter any issues, such as missing items, unauthorized charges, or suspicious behavior, address them promptly with Instacart customer support.

The platform has mechanisms in place to investigate and resolve problems. Timely reporting ensures a quicker resolution and helps maintain the integrity of the Instacart community.

Verify orders upon delivery – As a customer, protect yourself by verifying the items in your order immediately upon delivery. Cross-reference the received items with your order list to ensure accuracy.

If you notice any discrepancies or missing items, contact Instacart customer support right away. Taking this proactive step helps to rectify issues promptly and prevents potential scams from affecting your overall experience.

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