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The days of sports handicappers selling their picks via late-night infomercials or by stapling a flyer with their phone number to a telephone pole have long since past. Nowadays, sports handicappers (a.k.a. “touts”) use a tool with far greater reach: social media. Instagram, in particular, is a popular platform for touts to promote their brand, their unique sensibilities, and ultimately their pick-selling services.

When you’re searching for a sports handicapping service to help you boost your bankroll, you’ll have to assess which are authentic and which will make you broke in a hurry. That’s where we come in.

We’ve created a list of 6 ways to quickly spot a “scamdicapper,” based on the patterns and common characteristics of their social media accounts.

1. The Focus of Their Account Is a High-Roller Lifestyle

If you’re browsing through a sports handicapper’s Instagram profile and the most salient features of the account are stacks of money, Rolex watches, strippers, and bottle service, there’s a good chance that the owner of the account isn’t spending his days working to provide his clientele with the best possible picks.

More likely than not, they’re a scammer, and their (apparent) riches are not the product of long-term, successful handicapping. No sports handicapper worth their salt is letting their $100 bills fly through the air with impunity.

The best sports handicappers on Instagram are reluctant to draw the wrong kind of attention to themselves. They know that if they fly too close to the sun, they’ll start attracting the wrong kind of scrutiny from the places where they lay their own bets, whether that be at a brick and mortar sportsbook or an online betting site. They know that speaking softly is better than showing off for their overall clout in the handicapping community.

The success of legitimate handicappers is predicated on the huge amount of work they put into researching and analyzing games and betting lines. Further, they know that everyone goes through losing streaks, and that humility is a necessary component of being a successful sports bettor – in essence, they have the exact opposite mentality to braggadocious scamdicappers.

2. No Verifiable or Available Win/Loss Records: A Lack of Accountability and Transparency

This is a big one. We’d never advocate using a handicapping service that doesn’t make their lifetime win/loss record publicly available. As we mentioned in our article on the differences between how handicappers and scamdicappers promote their craft on Instagram, handicappers with nothing to hide will be eager to promote their lifetime wins/losses – for the obvious reason that they can really lay claim to an above average winning percentage.

In contrast, if you see an account which is exclusively focused on its recent success (e.g. “11-2 in the last week!” or “7-2 on Monday Night football this season!”) you should stop there because you’re likely dealing with a con artist. If a handicapper is drawing your attention to such a limited sample size, it’s likely because they don’t have a stronger body of betting work to showcase.

If they had a longer winning streak or an outstanding lifetime percentage, they’d be plastering that all over their social instead.

3. Too Much Style, Too Little Substance

If you see a sports handicapping account that predominantly features memes, inspirational messages, and even sports news, we’d recommend you move on.

One of our personal favorites is scamdicappers who regularly post pictures of Jordan Belfort, his quotes, or his likeness as played by Leo DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street. Yes, there are actual accounts that promote one of America’s most notorious fraudsters as a role model. The reason for avoiding these accounts should be self-evident.

Avoid handicappers who go this route at all costs. Courtesy of @WankedIn

The best handicappers spend a bulk of their time making sharp picks and selling them to their clients – not trying to make you laugh, or selecting the least lame inspirational quote. Winners, over a long enough timeline, become self-evident. Be wary of any account that veers from that simple formula.

4. Multiple Membership Tiers

No worthwhile picks service has different tiers of service, separated by price. Any Instagram handicapper with segregated membership levels is almost assuredly a scamdicapper.

Of course, accounts that offer different prices for varying time periods of subscription (providing discounts for purchasing six months’ worth of picks instead of a month’s worth, for example) can still be legitimate, as this is just a method of categorizing clients. However, by no means should a tout ever be providing different picks to their clients based on price.

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The reason multiple membership tiers are so closely intertwined with frauds is that the more different layers of membership they offer, the better chance that one of those tiers lucks into an above average winning percentage. Then, the scamdicappers can market the best performing of these tiers to more clients, and ignore the losing tiers. Avoid these accounts at all costs.

5. Impossible and False Promises

This one is simple. Any account that’s guaranteeing wins or offering their clients a consistent winning percentage of 60% or higher is blowing smoke.

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The first part is self-explanatory; there’s no such thing as a guaranteed win in sports betting. No sports handicapper can (legally) control the outcome of any sporting event.

According to world-renowned sports bettor Steve Fezzik, the best sports bettors in the world have a win percentage slightly north of 55% over their lifetimes. Bettors break even at 52.4% (assuming standard -110 juice) while return-on-investment doubles at 53.4% and doubles again for every percentage above that.

Think about it. If a bettor starts off with $1,000 and bets 10% of his bankroll each day at a win percentage of 60%, he’ll have more than $5 million five years later. If the best sports bettors in the world can’t ascend beyond a 55% winning percentage, an Instagram-based tout can’t either.

6. Accounts with No Comments, But Thousands of Likes and Followers

This is an easy one. Nowadays, anyone can buy additional Instagram followers, as well as Instagram likes. This is a common trick scamdicappers use to convince people that they’re more legitimate than they really are.

Thankfully, there’s an easy trick to detect which touts are using this dirty trick – just check the comments. If a post has 1,000-plus likes, but no comments, it’s likely that you’re dealing with a scamdicapper.

Would you buy a product on Amazon that didn’t have any reviews? Most people wouldn’t. By the same token, don’t use a handicapping service that has no real, tangible client engagement. On Instagram, numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Picking a Sports Handicapping Service on Instagram?

No two scamdicappers are the same and, every day, they are inventing new ways to rip off prospective clients. Because social media is so decentralized, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine who’s legitimate and who’s a scammer.

But if you keep a keen eye out for the red flags listed above, you’re much less likely to fork over your bankroll to a fraud.

In the next installation of our series on Instagram handicappers, we cover the dos and don’ts of selecting a handicapping service. It’s imperative you know how to get the most for your money.

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Aaron served as SBD's Lead Betting Analyst and lead researcher from 2017-2019. He has been featured in publications such as Intelligence Magazine, The Investing News Network, Haven, Tech Bullion, and many local and national publications. Western B.A. '14, NYU M.A. '17.