Scammers create program to manipulate Instacart orders

ATLANTA — The people who deliver groceries and other essentials have become front-line workers in the COVID-19 crisis.

But we've learned that scammers have created software to manipulate the Instacart app, and it is costing employees work.

Instacart confirms there are some people out there trying to game the system.

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They are running scam computer programs intercepting delivery jobs, what Instacart calls batches, keeping them from legitimate shoppers.

A video posted to Reddit allegedly shows scammer software in action on Instacart. It quickly grabs jobs before legitimate employees can.


Instacart calls their delivery people shoppers who accept shopping batches through the app.

But many Instacart shoppers have taken to forums and Facebook groups the past couple of weeks reporting the same problem.

"Stuff would pop up on the screen and literally just disappear before you’d be able to open it up and accept it," said Mike, a Cherokee county Instacart shopper who does not want to give his full name or show his face out of fear he'll lose his job.

But he said he's seen the bots in action, and it's cost him work.

"You pretty much would have to blindly hit your screen hoping to get whatever you could," he said.

We obtained screenshots showing one of the scammers offering someone their program to get priority access to orders for $550.

We reached out to Instacart. The company confirmed it is seeing some of these unauthorized third-party logins.

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It shared this statement:

“Selling or purchasing batches or delivery windows is not an authorized use of the Instacart platform. ... Anyone found to be engaged in any type of inappropriate or fraudulent use of the Instacart platform ... will have their accounts immediately deactivated.”

For Mike, it means lost income for what has become dangerous work. "It's hurting me. last week I worked more hours than I have previously, and made about $300 less," he said.

Instacart tells us this is not a hack or breach of the system.

But it is working on tougher login authentication to keep third-party programs and the people using them off its system.

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