Home Security Heroes independently tests and reviews every product. We may earn a commission when you buy through our links. Read more here.
Image by Webster2703
Instagram impersonation is easier than you think. Many people on Instagram don’t know the real you, there’s probably a post history just waiting for someone to use, and it’s very easy to create an Instagram account.
While it is easy for the perpetrator, impersonation can devastate the victim, especially if they have a strong online presence. Others around the victim might be affected, trust is shaken, and it can go a long time without detection.
If you’re reading this, it has happened to you, or you’re concerned about the possibility, don’t worry. It can be dealt with, and I’m here to help you figure out your plan.
Why Would Someone Do This?
Typically, the motive is one of the following:
- The impersonator may want to play a prank on a random person online. It could also be a more malicious prank or attack if the perpetrator feels slighted.
- They hope to use your identity to lull others into a false sense of security, then target them for identity theft or gathering information.
- If you happen to be famous (to at least some degree), the plan is to use your presence to send people to malicious links or gain attention for their cause (it likely isn’t good).
- There are a wide variety of phishing scams that use fake accounts. If it can gain someone’s trust, it’s an option.
- One notable story had the impersonator seeking to get followers or investors for a scam cryptocurrency-related company.
- A fake account needed to be made for scam-related purposes, and your photos were there. It’s less a matter of impersonation than laziness and opportunism.
If someone is impersonating you on Instagram, the goal might be to try and get more information on you, but more likely, the goal is to use the account to inflict harm on others or scam them ultimately.
The Potential Consequences of Impersonation
Instagram impersonation can lead to serious problems.
- Someone impersonating you with the account can trick others you know into following or interacting with the account, leading to phishing scams or other problems for them. This might come back to hurt you.
- You might think most people you know wouldn’t fall for it. You’d be right. But would the least technology-savvy person who knows you fall for it? That answer is more concerning.
- Your reputation could be seriously harmed. In your name, the account might say and do things you would never do, and people might not bother to check if the account is you. At the very least, it could lead to exhausting damage control.
- It could also harm your direct relationships with people if they do not know about the impersonation. Scammers don’t care; they might spend weeks on a potential victim if it’s worth it.
- When impersonating you, someone might get information on you from unsuspecting friends and family members. This can help with future impersonation or identity theft attempts.
- If you let it sit around for too long, it might give people the impression that you don’t care about your online identity or reputation. This might be a bad look for a business owner or online personality.
There may be other consequences, though they will vary depending on you, the impersonator, and your account.
When Does It Cross a Line?
Some things are impersonation, and others are not. Don’t let your lack of understanding between the two paralyze you into not acting when you should.
What Isn’t Impersonation:
- Someone with the same name as you, especially a common name.
- Someone is using a group photo with both of you in it.
- Though there are options if you don’t want to be tagged in the photo or if the photo is yours, and you want it taken down.
- Someone is making a parody account of you or your organization, especially if you have some degree of fame.
- Note that depending on the account and content, it might still go against Instagram’s terms of service. It just isn’t impersonation.
- An account dedicated to fans of someone or something. The problem is when they are claiming to be the actual thing.
What Is Impersonation:
- Someone is using your photos or photos of you without your permission to make the account seem like your true profile.
- Someone is saying they’re you with details about your life.
If you’re still uncertain, ask for a second or legal opinion if you have a major online presence. Otherwise, ask some people you know if they might think the account is yours after looking for a few minutes. An outside perspective helps a lot.
How Do You Find Out?
You’re not going to get a message from a scammer saying, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know I’m going to impersonate you online, cool Thanks in advance.”
If so, they’re a very polite scammer who is very bad at what they do. So, it’s up to you to learn in the first place.
To get to the bottom of the problem, you must find where and to what extent it goes. You might find out via:
- Someone might notice the impersonation and let you know. Be sure to take such notices seriously and at least check them out.
- You can also do the occasional search for yourself, both on Instagram and the general Internet.
- If you have a personal brand or are in charge of a company, you will also want to search for that.
- If someone impersonating you on Instagram is particularly successful, you will likely find out through search algorithms and recommendations.
- Ideally, it doesn’t get to this point, though, as it would mean some damage has been done.
- If you have a few images you use regularly for yourself, do a Google search of them using the photos. It might turn up results you weren’t expecting.
What Can Someone Do With This Account?
We discussed the consequences of impersonation above and invited you to revisit that section as needed. However, it does beg the question: What else can someone do with the account?
The limits of social engineering are only the scammers’ imagination and the victims’ lack of awareness. Whatever a scammer can convince someone to do using your face and name, they will if they think they can get away with it.
This can mean harassing people, funneling people toward a phishing link or a scam, or simply wreaking havoc on your relationships. It’s, in some ways, an unknown threat, which makes it more dangerous.
However, the good news is that while there is a lot a scammer can do with an impersonated account, a scammer cannot directly steal your identity with the account. They cannot learn your social security number or sensitive information unless someone gives it to them.
Still, it is something you cannot let the impersonator keep for long.
What Instagram Has Done About These Incidents
Not enough. While Instagram has strong words for impersonators and clearly states that impersonation is not allowed, scams and profiles continue to exist on the platform and plague many people. While the accounts can get banned quickly, they keep popping back up.
There is a verified badge system that helps brands, celebrities, and other public entities distinguish themselves from fakes. Still, that does not remove the fake accounts. People need to report imposters for them to be removed, and it may take a while.
That being said, one wonders what Instagram can do without setting off a bunch of false positives.
Did Your Account Get Stolen or Compromised?
It’s extremely easy to take someone’s photos online and slap together a fake profile from them and some basic personal information. These accounts can be reported, and most people will think something is suspicious, though they can still cause problems.
If someone takes over your official Instagram account or can access it as they please (with or without your knowledge), especially if it’s active, that’s a far more serious and immediate problem.
What to Do if Your Account Was Stolen
The most important thing is to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
First, report that your account was stolen. You can do this by contacting support on Instagram or going through the proper account recovery steps. This link will lead you to the appropriate page.
If you think your account was compromised but can still log in, immediately:
- Change the password.
- Turn on two-factor authentication.
- Check the email address and phone number linked to the account.
- Revoke access to third-party apps.
After this, keep a close eye on your Instagram and other accounts to ensure no other issues arise.
Actions You Can Take
So someone is impersonating you in some way on Instagram. Now what?
You don’t have to sit there and hope someone on Instagram does something. I recommend against that. Instead, you will want to take the following steps in the best order for your situation.
Gather Evidence and Document Everything
If you need to contact support on Instagram, having evidence that there’s a problem helps. While Instagram will check independently, the impersonator might switch things up when you aren’t looking.
Note that while you collect evidence, you should still report the account as soon as possible.
You don’t need to do anything too special. Collect screenshots with metadata, if possible, and record whatever else you can.
Report the Account (and Get Help)
Once you find the offending account and have the necessary information, it’s time to take action.
Instagram is the one behind the scenes allowing the account (and yours), and only they can ban and remove the impersonating account. You can use this page to find the correct link to report the issue to them.
This is something that you can get help with as well. The more accounts that report a given account, the more likely that the account will be reviewed promptly.
You can still report an imposter account if you do not have an Instagram account. You will want to use this page to do so.
Let People Know About the Imposter
If you know someone is getting contacted or tricked by the imposter account, be sure to reach out to them to say, “Hey, that’s not me.”
To avoid confusion, it’s best to use a non-Instagram platform where you can easily verify yourself to do this.
If it’s a major issue, a social media post might help, with a screenshot of the offending party. You can make it part of getting help reporting the account.
Don’t Try to Contact the Imposter
While you might have the internal desire to contact the importer account and give them a piece of your mind, resist that urge. Anyone impersonating you will only respond if they’re trying to get a rise out of you. Otherwise, they’ll just ignore the message or lie to you.
At worst, your account might get automatically suspended for harassment, as it’s not always humans (or humans paying close attention) that analyze these things.
Should I Take Legal Action?
That’s up to you. If major damages were inflicted due to the impersonation, you might want to talk to a lawyer about it. If it’s just a quick impersonation of a personal account, you might want to remove the account by reporting it and move on.
Wait and Minimize the Damage
After you report the account and take whatever other steps you can, you should wait a while. Some bans and removals can happen in minutes. Others state they happen weeks after the initial report.
From my review, the wait time can vary.
Meanwhile, minimize the damage if you feel further damage control is needed.
- Is there anything you need to do to secure your main account or other accounts? Where did the impersonator get their pictures of you from?
- Is there anyone else you should contact to report the issue or warn them that someone is impersonating you?
- Are there any remaining identity theft or cybersecurity concerns that must be addressed?
There will be other questions, but generally consider your current situation and whether there is anything left to do.
Preventing it from Happening Again
Enable 2FA on your account under Profile > Settings > Password and security
A bit of prevention is worth a gigabyte of cure. The more you can do to prevent Instagram impersonation (or at least catch it early), the better off you will be. Take the following steps to protect your account, your identity, and more:
- Take whatever steps you can to protect your account. Use a better password, and two-step verification, and don’t leave your devices unattended if they’re logged in.
- If you are a public figure, see if you can get your account verified. It might not be easy and a hassle, but it helps ensure people have the right account. It will also make reporting false accounts much easier for you and everyone else.
- Make it a part of your regular routine to check if there are imposter accounts or accounts using your name or brand. A quick search every few months is fine if you have a normal account, though more frequent searches may be called for if you are a public figure.
- Don’t use the same login information or password as your other accounts.
Identity Theft and Instagram Impersonation
Identity theft is one of the major problems and themes related to Instagram impersonation.
Scammers and imposters, outside of money, mostly look for personal information, either obtaining it themselves or tricking people into giving it up willingly. This personal information is then used to commit identity theft.
You don’t want yourself or your loved ones to become a victim of identity theft. We go into more detail about it here.
You can protect your identity, save time, and get insurance against such issues using an identity theft protection service such as Aura. It will monitor your accounts and credit for you (among other things) so you don’t have to, allowing you to be fine just checking the occasional report (or alert) from them.
Conclusion – Don’t Let Instagram Scammers Ruin Your Good Face (and Name)
Scams on Instagram are a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t concerning when you get impersonated. Follow the above steps to get your identity, online life, and reputation back. It’s easier than you think, will be faster, and will give you peace of mind.
Once you do that and start using other measures and tools to protect your identity, such as Aura, you’ll feel much safer and can work online and on social media with less risk. Keep a lookout for imposters, but don’t let the threat of them dominate your thoughts once you have implemented this plan.
Related Articles To Protect Your Social Media Accounts:
Last Updated on