Help, my Instagram account has been cloned!
In the past 4 days, I have had the experience of being contacted by and seen several people discussing being a victim of Impersonation Accounts on Instagram. This is not the same as being hacked and I'll explain why and what you can do to help yourself and others if you're affected by it.What is an Impersonation Account and how do they work?
An Impersonation Account is where someone makes a new Instagram account with a name sounding very similar to your own, they copy your introduction and then take a screenshot of your profile picture and use it as their own. Bam! Straight away this is a clone of your account, but for good measure, they normally fill it up a bit with some posts shared (they have no followers yet) by copying them from your account using the same text, images, and hashtags that you posted.
Then the next part is the sneaky bit, they start clicking on #Like4Like hashtags and liking the posts, those people like them back (they're just after some followers at this point) after a week they go back to your account and they start following the people on your Follows list, these people have already liked your account so are interested in you but you haven't necessarily followed them back yet for whatever reason. They'll go through them and like them a few at a time so they don't get flagged by Instagram. By this time they are fully using your profile as it was their own most likely with no one picking up on it. They then start going through your Following list and liking them too, this is where they're most likely to be picked up as a fake, one of your friends might spot them and start reporting them. They'll post a few more posts copied from your account, trying to gain more followers to look genuine and then they start messaging people, like you. The scam has begun, account set up, trust gained, and built up they can now start messaging people.My Experience
I received a message from what I thought was a fellow Social Media Manager whose business I followed a few days earlier, it started with. "Hey, have you heard the good news?" I love good news and replied with "No tell me, I love good news" it then went on to say I was illegible to a grant from a fancy sound university in America. Doubting this to be true and my Spidey Sense already ringing, I checked out the link which took me to a very professional-looking website. However, warning signs were all over this site, it was meant to be a huge multinational online college but had spelling errors on every page, used easily found stock images, and had no social media. The process to apply for the grant would have taken all my personal, business, and bank details leading me to be copied in more ways than just my Instagram account. In the meantime, the original owner of the page had noticed I followed her Impersonation account and contacted me to explain, confirming my suspicions. I reported it to Instagram using their reporting service, however, with Covid19 stretching resources and scammers increasing every day it can day a long time for them to act on one report.What do I do if my Instagram account gets Cloned?
- Make sure your security is high. Go through your settings and make sure you have two-factor Authentication installed on your account. This scam doesn't need access to your account but it's always best to ensure you have the highest security settings you can.
- Report the account look for the 3 dots in the top right-hand corner of the account tap on it for the report option, then for good measure do the same and report each post on the Clone account also. reporting is a numbers game, the more reports the bigger the flag it raises for Instagram, and the quicker it gets noticed and dealt with.
- Go through the Clones Likes and Followers list, spot anyone you know as a friend, and message them to say you have been cloned.
- Change your profile picture, accounting. It's a pain but we now need to distance your account from the Clone account.
- Post about it. The Clone is working on the fact that everything is taken at face value without being looked into too deeply. The more coverage your account gets and reports on the fake account the more likely it gets pulled down or deleted by the Scammer. Take the profile picture the account is using and post it to your Instagram account with a warning (I've done an example below) then share the post in stories. Don't worry about the look of your Instagram grid for now this post can be deleted later when the Clone account comes down. Ask your followers to report the account giving its Instagram handle, this is all about boosting your signal and getting the page down as quickly as possible.
Finally, remember to thank everyone.
Scammers will try to use your followers against you, and the bigger the following you have the more likely this is to happen. Take time to thank everyone for their support, send messages back to anyone who alerted you to the Clone, and let people know it's been resolved. It's a horrible situation to be in but you can use it to build on your community and make it more connected and stronger.