Alert consumers filed reports with the Better Business Bureau about a scam company that claimed to help social media influencers connect with major brands, but instead was allegedly stealing images, posting fake testimonials, and making unsubstantiated claims about its successful clients. Investigators with BBB Serving Northeast Florida & The Southeast Atlantic alerted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office about the scheme, leading to the arrest of Robert V. Thomas, owner of eBassador, LLC, on charges related to his status as a registered sex offender. Two things triggered the BBB investigation. The first was when a social media influencer filed a Scam Tracker report that Thomas was using her images and name on his website without her permission, implying that she was his client. The second was that Thomas was asking his prospective clients to turn over personally identifiable information (PII) under the guise of performing criminal background checks on their behalf. PII can be used for identity theft.“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office sergeant told us they had been watching this guy for quite some time, but they didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle until BBB turned over its Scam Tracker reports,” said Tom Stephens, president and CEO of BBB Serving Northeast Florida & The Southeast Atlantic. “We are so thrilled that Scam Tracker helped identify a scam before anyone was terribly hurt, and I am especially proud of my team for picking up on the scam from the reports and raising the concerns that led to our investigation and his arrest.”BBB received consumer complaints and reports alleging that the business was collecting funds for a “Brand Safe guarantee” background check for hopeful social media influencers. eBassador claimed that it worked with large name brand businesses who put their trust in eBassador’s “Brand Safe” guarantee, and that “Brand Safe Influencers” earned up to five times more money than unverified influencers. The “Brand Safe” reviews supposedly included checks of criminal background, sex offender registries, social media content, and the Terrorist Watch List.Consumers claim that they were contacted by eBassador representative Amanda Thomas stating that they were a good fit for a campaign spokesperson role the business was casting for a large national chain. To be considered for this position eBassador needed the potential influencer to go through their “Brand Safe’ background check. The initial solicitation email from the business required that the candidate provide their full name and contact phone number, and asked if they could pass a background check.The earning potential for the influencer position was very lucrative, all consumers indicate that the job offered a potential contract amount of $10,000. Once the hopeful users submitted the initial information that the business asked for, they were then required to produce additional PII and credit card payment for the “Brand Safe” check that is required by the national chain to be considered for the spokesperson role. After submitting the information and fee as required, consumers say that is the end of the contact they had with eBassador. BBB was also contacted by an influencer displayed on the “Brand Safe” page of the eBassador website who stated that her social media images are being displayed on this page without her knowledge or consent.The frustrated social media user says “I have never heard of this company other than seeing them on Instagram. I started getting tons of messages from other members of Instagram, inquiring about their services and couldn't understand why because I am in no way affiliated with them. I soon learned that they are using my Instagram profile on their website to scam people into "being employed" with them, but really just phishing, asking for their socials and money for background checks, promising these users the world, when in fact, it's a way for them to steal people's money and identities. I have contacted them numerous times, through IG, email and even calling them, telling them to take my info down from their scammy website. They have yet to respond, and I keep getting messages from people asking about their services. This is super frustrating, not to mention, I don't want people to think I am part of their scam.”“In an age where younger audiences are used to marketing products on social media platforms, these incidents serve as a reminder why we need to teach children and teens, and remind young consumers, to seek guidance when offered opportunities that may not always be genuine, says BBB’s Stephens. “This is a reminder to always do your homework before giving out personally identifiable information to unknown entities that seek you out.”The resources page of the eBassador website shows client case studies that proclaim the success of previous clients’ social media campaigns using influencers. However, BBB was not able to identify any of the companies listed. All links, domain registrations, business licenses, and trademarks all pointed back to Thomas and/or eBassador.eBassador asserts on their Instagram profile that the company representative is Amanda Thomas. However, BBB research indicates that all companies registered to the business address and associated to eBassador are affiliated with Robert Thomas, a registered sexual offender in the state of Florida. Although he is married to an Amanda Thomas, the images being used on social media are not those of his wife. Thomas was formally charged on Wednesday with “failure to report all internet identifiers within 48 hours” and “failure to report changes in employment” as required of sexual offenders according to Florida statute.Research companies at BBB.org. To learn more about scams, visit bbb.org/scamtips. To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.MEDIA CONTACTS: For more information, journalists for national media outlets should contact Katherine Hutt (212-705-0131 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Journalists for local media outlets should contact their regional spokesperson (bbb.org/bbb-locator).