Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
Most people are already aware that scammers can easily hack your social media account and start sending out private messages with links in them that either send out viruses or earn the scammer cash with each page view your audience gives them by clicking. The response is well known (“hey, that’s not me, don’t click!”), and most people know how to navigate those waters, but there’s another danger lurking – imitators.
Wouldn’t it be flattering if someone was an alternative version of you, using your profile picture and all, just to be like you? It’s not just on Twitter anymore, it’s now on Instagram, reports The Verge.
Instagram users, including some of their own staff, have found their own Instagram photos, caption and all, copied onto what appear to be spambot account, even using your profile picture and tagging your real life friends. One of the only ways to really discover that someone is mimicking your account is if they tag a friend and that friend tells you that something strange is going on as they’re tagged twice by two different accounts. Theoretically, this could even begin to make people doubt which is the legitimate account. Imagine having to explain to your mom which is the real you (“honey, I’ll need proof”).
Follow the money
These spambots are set up by real people, but fully automated, and they’ve become so brazen that they care not that in order to copy your captions, it sends out a notification to your friends that they’re being tagged. Again.
Most people will just roll their eyes and be annoyed momentarily that a spammer is copying them instead of a celebrity. But why? They typically don’t have any followers, and they end up following thousands of other people, so most just ignore it. That’s the wrong approach, because mimicking an Instagram account is typically being done so these fake accounts can be sold on what is being called the “social media black market” to anyone who needs Instagram followers and likes. The same goes for Twitter, Facebook, and the like.
You’ve gotten the emails of companies offering you 5,000 followers for $5.00, right? That’s exactly what this is.
Don’t let this happen
“To limit the spam you see on our service, we prohibit the creation of fraudulent accounts and use a set of systems that work to flag and block suspicious accounts used for spam,” an Instagram spokesperson told The Verge. “You can also report these accounts using the report links we provide in our apps and on our site.”
If more people report impersonators (which requires you to send a photo of your government ID to Instagram, by the way), the spammers are busted in a more meaningful way and the practice could eventually be eradicated. Wishful thinking, we know.
Before it happens to you, you could always consider setting all of your Instagram settings to private so these accounts can’t scrape yours. It’s your call.