Some Instacart shoppers claim that the company has wrongfully terminated their accounts in response to fraudulent activity, locking them out of future earnings until they get reactivated, CNN Business reports.
The shoppers CNN Business spoke to were identified as having “linked accounts,” which, in Instacart’s terminology, means an account believed to have indicators of fraud, though not necessarily with compromised data connected to a shopper.
The company offers a process for appealing deactivations, but at least one of the shoppers CNN Business spoke to, Rachael Freedman, still hasn’t had her account reactivated because her appeal was denied.
Instacart didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on Friday. The company did tell CNN that “We take the safety and security of the Instacart platform very seriously,” but that “there has not been a breach or hack of the Instacart platform.” The company says it has measures in place for workers who’ve been the victim of a phishing scam to get back into their accounts “in a timely manner.” It’s not clear why that hasn’t applied to Freedman.
The scam that Instacart workers described sounds similar to an issue Target’s Shipt gig workers encountered. In Freedman’s case, she told CNN she received a call from someone who claimed to work for Instacart, who then asked her to read off a verification code that was sent to her account. Not long after she shared her information, she was locked out. It appears the scammer changed the password to her account — again, very similar to what Shipt shoppers described, except in her case, Instacart responded by deactivating Freedman’s account completely.
Instacart cautions shoppers against sharing their information with anyone who identifies themselves as an Instacart employee outside of its official channels, like the app or its 24/7 shopper chat. The pandemic has made grocery delivery a crucial service, but the ease with which workers can have their income affected through no fault of their own illustrates how vulnerable gig workers like Instacart shoppers are. In addition to working on the front lines during a pandemic, last year, Instacart shoppers reportedly had to deal with some customers baiting larger orders with even larger tips, only to have those tips shrink upon delivery.
Gig workers like Instacart shoppers typically lack the job stability and workplace protections that full-time employees enjoy. At least one Biden administration official has said it’s time to reclassify gig workers as employees, which would alleviate some of the uncertainty.