Have you ever stumbled upon an obviously bogus Instagram profile? Or better yet, has that kind of profile tried to make contact with you? If yes, here’s all you need to know about these imposters. From why they do it to how to stop them.
Many people have even found their own identities being used by these impersonators. Imagine just scrolling down the explore page and bam. You see yourself.
Your face and picture but a different name. Or better yet, username.
“What do I do when someone is impersonating me on Instagram?!”
There are many reasons why people pretend to be someone else on Instagram. A portion of it goes to schemers. And best believe that some cases are dumber than others.
For example, you’ve most likely already seen fake celebrity profiles. A lot of people like to pretend they are a celeb. So they put together an ‘official’ Instagram profile.
They even interact with fans by replying to comments and DMs. As if they actually are the celeb or influencer themselves.
Sometimes, these profiles look exclusively real. When in doubt, always look for the blue checkmark next to their name. If the profile is verified it’s a no-brainer. You’ll be left wondering: “Is Instagram impersonating me?”
Also, their username is usually their full name without any special characters. Look at Ariana Grande’s official Instagram profile for example:
You can, of course, report fake celeb profiles to Instagram too. Their guidelines clearly state that impersonating is against all Instagram rules. Gathering someone else’s info like that is even against US federal law.
“US federal law doesn’t allow private parties to obtain account content (example: comments, photos, and so on) from providers like Instagram.”
But for now, we wanted to direct our focus elsewhere. Before we get into how to stop them, here’s what kind of Instagram stolen identity exists.
In mid-2012, the online world was introduced to identity stealing spambots. Some Instagram users reported being followed by their bot-selves. A.k.a, profiles made up entirely from stolen photographs.
This, however, wasn’t only an issue on IG. Facebook and Twitter have been battling these bots for ages. In recent years all social media platforms have taken this situation seriously. Even though identity theft on Instagram can’t always be prevented.
Most of these fake doppelgängers were made to boost IG followers and likes. Underground bot makers would steal already posted Instagram pictures. Thousands of identities and faces.
The photos would serve only one purpose – to make these bots look real. The activities were automated and at one point, they were selling like crazy. Thankfully, IG learned how to trace these guys. More regulations have been added to the platform since then. And their activities are at the lowest currently.
Scammers and Impersonators
On the more personal side of Instagram, we have individual impersonators. A person or a group pretending to be someone else. Ray Parisi, a writer for CNBC, found a profile that was impersonating him under a different name.
“Under my face was the name Leon Ellis (likely not this impostor’s real name). The photo was the same one I used for my own Instagram profile, only it had been turned into a black and white image.”
It turned out they were using Parisi’s photos to scam people into investing in a fake bitcoin company. They’ve created a fake name and profession.
They’ve even linked a website under their bio. The website was described as a social trading crypto platform. The imposter featured Parisi’s personal selfies and pictures with friends and family.
They even included pictures of Parisi’s dog to make the profile seem more real and personal.
The fake profile VS Parisi’s actual profile
Parisi noted how the fake him had 12.700 followers – way more than the real him. They have apparently been grown in a period of 9 months.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this happened. Nor is it the last. Many people have been scammed into spending or investing money in fake companies. Some individuals go as far as creating fake websites and team members to make the lie more believable.
The New York Times even published a story about the heartbreaking reality of social media scams. More specifically, how they affect people’s lives. The victim in the story has lost $26,000 to $30,000 due to the scam.
With all these threats looming around the corner we have to watch out and stay safe. Here’s how we do it:
How To Spot A Fake or Impersonated Profile?
The following points are red flags to look out for if you get suspicious. Usually, these profiles aren’t that hard to spot. Even the best instagram identity thefts have flaws. Always do your best to protect yourself when online!
- When was the first image posted?
If the first post was created just recently, it might be a sign of a fake Instagram profile. Bot or an imposter, the first post shouldn’t be more than a couple of months old.
- Multiple posts in one day
For efficiency, many fake profiles upload multiple pictures in one or a few days. This could be an indicator as well. Keep in mind that most of these people are lazy.
If they happen to hit the jackpot and find a lot of pictures to use, they’ll most likely use them all at once.
These pictures are only two hours apart
- Following to Follower Ratio
Keep in mind that the normal follower to following ratio is 1:1 or less. Fake or impersonated accounts on Instagram often follow considerably more than that. Talk about driving clients on Instagram away like that.
Whether they are trying to scam people or not, they need an audience. And by following a lot of users at once they are growing their profile. One way or another.
- Empty / Low-Quality Bios
Due to a lack of effort, many fake Instagram accounts just leave their bios blank. And if they are not completely blank, they seem unfinished or forced. Watch out for excessive emoji usage as well. Most of them will only have a first name or no name at all.
- High follower count, low engagement
Always keep in mind that most of their followers are bots. They’ll have lots of followers yet low engagement. Regardless if it’s an impersonator or a bot itself.
They need to ‘look’ real and fast results are often what they lean towards. With that being said, they almost never have good engagement. Plus, you’ll never catch them actually posting good Instagram stories. Ever.
- The following is often maxed out
Many times, the accounts will follow the maximum number of accounts you can follow, which is 7,500 people. They usually range from 7k to 7.5k too. As we’ve mentioned above, they tend to follow a lot of users to build an ‘audience’. And often, that does more harm than good.
- No profile picture / highly edited profile picture
Some services that sell followers create fake accounts and do nothing to make them look genuine. In comparison, others put a lot of effort into making their profile look authentic.
Too much effort. For example, excessive usage of apps like FaceTune or VSCO and PicsArt. Whatever makes the photos look very ‘plastic’.
What is a Catfish?
Catfishing is a bizarre internet phenomenon, to say the least. On a lighter note, this one doesn’t scam you for investments. It scams you for ‘love’. Or so it seems. Catfishing is the act of pretending to be someone you are not online. The goal is to lure someone you’ve never met into a relationship. For personal gain, of course.
It was even the subject of the 2010 documentary movie Catfish. And the American TV show of the same name. A ‘catfish’ usually steals someone else’s photos, videos, or personal information.
They will spend a lot of time creating the perfect fake profile. They choose photographs of people that are not ‘too pretty’, to avoid suspicion. They will talk to their victims via DMs or text for a longer period of time. Create trust, and then, nine times out of ten, ask for whatever they need. It’s often the case that catfish don’t want to meet up in person. That would ruin their scam, which usually involves requesting payments using a ‘sob story’.
In many ways, catfishing is a form of identity theft. People’s personal photographs are used to scam people without them even knowing. And Instagram is taking all precautions necessary to prevent damage. As much as possible. But what can we do other than watch out for warning signs?
Now that we’ve briefly covered the who, let’s discuss the how. How to report them, that is.
What can YOU do?
As they say it themselves, Instagram takes safety very seriously. If you ever experience a profile pretending to be you, you can always report them to Instagram. You can fill out this form if you are an active user on the platform. Instagram even has an option for non-users who have been impersonated, here.
And finally, this is how you can report a profile who has been using your pictures:
When on the impersonator’s profile, click the three dots in the upper right corner.
That will open a drop-down menu. Tap the Report profile option. Later on, you’ll be faced with three menu options: me, someone I know, or a celebrity or public figure.
Simple tap, “me”.
As you can see, you can also report the profile for the people you know. You can even do the same for all public figures. However, always keep in mind this Instagram rule: Only the person who’s being impersonated can file the report.
So, let that person know about the profile and encourage them to report it!
Once you report the profile manually, you will be led to the same form as above. The form will require the following information: your full name; email; the name of your impersonator, and their username. After you’ve filled in the form, click confirm. To finish, the report will ask you to upload a selfie while holding a valid form of ID. Make sure that the full name on your ID matches the one on your profile. And that would be it!
This is what the form looks like
After that, you will receive an email from Instagram and the issue will be dealt with. This is what
Ray Parisi had to say when he reported his imposter:
“My stolen pics instantly disappeared, in fact, Instagram vaporized my impersonator’s entire account. Sadly I didn’t inherit any of the fake me’s followers.”
As you can see, Instagram got to the bottom of it very fast. All you have to do essentially is to verify your identity. And that’s pretty much it.
So if you have a similar issue to report, please visit Instagram’s official Help Center.
We can’t really prevent people from impersonating others online.
As long as we put out information and content, it’s free for others to ‘use’. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be cautious. And if things go south, we hope this blog sheds more light on what to do when in a pickle!
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