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Facebook hairstylist scams edge out legitimate community stylists in C-U

Sequita Daniels, a local hair stylist and the owner of Champaign Hair Lounge, retwists a client’s locs on Tues., March 26. Daniels said she has seen scams where people come to her salon asking for a stylist who does not exist.

It’s not unusual for hairstylists to ask for a deposit before doing a client’s hair, so Youngest Keaton thought nothing of it when she was asked for one to secure her spot with a stylist.

She sent the money. Soon after, she was blocked and scammed out of $85.

Keaton, who lives in Champaign, isn’t alone in being tricked by social media scams.. Losses to scams on social media “hit a staggering $2.7 billion, far higher than any other method of contact,” according to a 2021 report from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

For women using social media to find a hairstylist, fake accounts created by people posing as hairstylists can appear real, containing pictures of the purported stylist’s previous works. Some of these fake profiles use pictures stolen from other people.

The accounts will respond when people post about needing a stylist, ask for a deposit to secure an appointment, and then block the person after the payment is received.

This happened to Keaton, who was eager to get her hair done in box braids. She made a post in a private Facebook group about looking for a stylist in October 2023. The alleged scammer was one of nine people who responded to the post.

A request for a hairstylist posted on Facebook. Photo courtesy of Champaign-Urbana Hair Facebook page

It came down to two people: a local stylist, Dutchess Taylor and the fake stylist who created an account with the name “Keisha Wade.” Keaton said she ended up selecting the fake account.

“The only reason why I decided to forget Dutchess is because the other girl was cheaper,” Keaton said in an interview. “Dutchess wanted $150 for what I wanted, and the other girl wanted $100 with the hair [extensions] included.”

Keaton said the price was a steal for the hairstyle she wanted. Another reason she decided on Wade was because, from their exchanges, including a phone call, she seemed legitimate.

“What made them seem legit and believable is … it was a lot of conversation,” Keaton said. “It wasn’t just like two or three messages. There was slang in there and a lot of normal verbiage. You would expect a scammer to … sound very foreign.”

She said she sent the money using Cash App, a free-to-use money-sending service, and when the booking was done, Wade sent her an address to the Champagne Hair Lounge inside the Market Place Shopping Center in Champaign. With this information, Keaton said she felt even more at ease because she was familiar with the establishment. 

But when she arrived, she soon realized that no one was coming to braid her hair — no one by that name worked there. She had been scammed. 

“After I got there the day of the appointment, which was the next day, they just kept trying to get me to send more and more money. Then I called it for what it was, and then I got blocked,” she said. 

Chris Slaby, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), said hair braiders must be licensed before offering services, and checking if a person has a license can help people avoid a possible scam. 

“Anyone thinking of doing business with a professional licensed by IDFPR (including cosmetologists and hair braiders) should first check that they are licensed by using the Department’s license lookup tool,” he said.

After the incident, Keaton said she was distraught because most of the money she had set aside to get her hair done was gone. She returned to the Facebook group to warn others about the scam. 

Upon further investigation of the fake account, two images promoting Wade’s work appeared to be taken from other people and different websites. Wade, who claimed to be a Champaign stylist, posted a picture of her work that could be traced back to the Instagram page of a hairstylist based in Nigeria.

The second image was traced back to a Zambian hair extension website. Furthermore, most of the “Likes” on Wade’s pictures were from accounts based in Nigeria.

Keaton warned others in the Facebook group about the fake account. Photo courtesy of Champaign-Urbana Hair Facebook page

Sequita Daniels, a local hair stylist and the owner of Champaign Hair Lounge, said she has seen scams like this where people come to her salon asking for a stylist who isn’t part of her team.

“I witnessed a couple of scams. I think they had come up here several times. They said that they were looking for one stylist, and they don’t work here,” she said.

She explained that because more people are relying on social media to find stylists, it has become easier for people to get scammed. 

Daniels advised those looking for hair stylists to research any person they find on social media before sending them a booking deposit. Like Slaby, she said one way to avoid scams is to check if the stylist has a license.

“I feel like they should do their research on their stylist. You can also check the Illinois Department of [Federal and Professional] Regulations and they will tell you if they’re licensed or not,” she said. “You don’t want somebody that is not licensed working on your hair.”

The account by the name of Keisha Wade can no longer be found on Facebook.

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At the IPM Student Newsroom, journalism students from the U of I's College of Media work alongside professional journalists -- public radio reporters, editors and producers -- to produce multimedia stories on issues affecting east-central Illinois. Follow us on Instagram: @illinoisstudentnewsroom

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