Fake Instagram Accounts: How To Protect Your Account Online
Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, boasting over two billion active users per month. It’s a popular option for influencers, with a static feed perfect for capturing aesthetic moments, but there’s one major problem: fake Instagram accounts.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the platform attracts a lot of bots because, with such a large user base, the opportunities are lucrative. Fake accounts can threaten your growth, so keep reading to find out how to protect your account from bots and scammers and how to report a fake Instagram account when you encounter one.
What Are Fake Instagram Accounts and Why Are They a Problem?
Fake Instagram accounts come in two forms. Sometimes, they are created by real people who are impersonating someone else. Others are computer-run bot accounts, which automatically post content (including photos and comments) and interact with other accounts despite not being real. You might notice these bots lurking in your story views.
Not all bots are inherently harmful. Sometimes, bots on social media serve a purpose. For example, some automatically post reminders to a community at certain times or to schedule content. However, others are, at best, annoying and, at worst, harmful.
Some bots might try to hack your account by sending spam messages to encourage you to click a link. Plus, if you get a ton of bots following you, it can harm your career as an influencer because it looks like you are buying fake followers.
Although bots can be harmful, you do not necessarily need to know or research fake Instagram account holders. In most cases, you can block and move on. However, some estimates suggest that bots account for 10% of Instagram users, which means they can become a problem.
Why Do People Make Fake Instagram Accounts?
There are many reasons why people might create fake Instagram accounts, ranging from boosting their own engagement to trying to scam others. Here are some reasons why people might make a fake account, including the good, the bad, and the ugly:
- Fraud: Many bots on Instagram send DMs en masse to attempt to scam real users out of money. According to the FTC, over one in four people experienced online scams via social media in 2021.
- Identity theft: Similarly, some bots exist to impersonate someone else, either to cause harm through bullying or to scam other users. For example, influencers often experience fake accounts impersonating them when hosting a giveaway.
- Marketing: Some individuals and businesses create bot accounts to boost their follower count or engagement metrics. However, note that it’s easy to disprove these high numbers, which means it’s a terrible marketing tactic.
- Privacy concerns: Some people create fake accounts at the less harmful end of the scale because they don’t want other users or moderators to see or track them.
Overall, the motivations behind creating fake accounts vary widely, but many of the reasons are harmful. This is why it’s essential to try and avoid bots.
The Real Dangers of Fake Instagram Accounts
Many influencers wonder why it’s so crucial to avoid bot accounts. After all, if you aren’t clicking any links from people you don’t know, how can fake accounts hurt you?
Unfortunately, scams are getting smarter. Malicious people can trick you in more ways than one, and sometimes it’s all too easy to fall for a con. For example, if an account with numerous followers messages you with an offer for work, you might think it’s legitimate. Before you know it, you could have given away personal details such as your home address.
Fake Instagram accounts are more than just a minor nuisance. They can also harm your business if you don’t get rid of them. Instagram might think you are buying fake followers, or perhaps even worse, potential businesses you work with might think the same.
Plus, if you have a lot of fake accounts impersonating you, it could make you appear less trustworthy to your followers.
How to Spot Instagram Fake Accounts
There are some simple ways to tell fake Instagram accounts apart from real ones. You might be able to tell based on a few factors, but at the end of the day, you should always trust your gut. It’s possible that an account will show all the primary signs of being fake, but it’s actually a real person. However, if you have a really bad feeling, don’t feel guilty about reporting a suspicious account.
1. Check the Profile
Your first port of call should be to check the user’s profile. One of the biggest giveaways is the username. If it’s a random string of letters and numbers, then chances are it’s a bot account. Furthermore, if the username says one thing but the account name says something completely different, this could also be a red flag.
You should also take a look at the profile picture. Many bots do not have a picture at all, leaving it set to Instagram’s default image. Faceless accounts can be suspicious, but it might also be a real person who wishes to remain anonymous. There may also be suspicious profile pics, like stock images or inappropriate content, which are clear signs to distinguish Instagram fake accounts.
Next, check out the bio. If it seems generic or it’s left blank, then it could be a bot, or it could simply be someone who did not want to fill it out. However, if the bio encourages you to click a link, there’s a big chance it’s a fake account.
Finally, take a look at the pictures. If the account isn’t private, you can see the photos and judge if they seem like a real person. Investigate the captions, too; if every caption tries to get viewers to click a link, it could be a scam. Remember that a fake Instagram account could be stealing someone else’s photos, making them look real.
If it’s private, try these methods to view the profile.
2. Check the Followers and Following
Next, take a look at the followers. An account with tons of followers but low engagement might have bought bot followers. This is not usually an account you want to interact with, regardless of their intentions when they follow you.
Furthermore, an account with hundreds of bot followers could be a bot or run by one person with many bot accounts.
Check the following, too. If they have suddenly followed you and a ton of your friends, it could be a bot crawling through different accounts and spam following. This is another warning sign that you might be dealing with fake Instagram accounts.
3. Examine the Activity
Bots often leave generic comments with a call to action. You might see comments telling you to “click here,” “DM me,” or “follow back!” These are all red flags that you should avoid because the commenter is likely spamming.
They may also spam-like your posts in an attempt to get you to look at the account. Even if it’s a real person, Instagram is likely to detect spam and remove the account, so it’s not someone you want to engage with.
4. Suspicious Dms From Fake Instagram Accounts
Strange messages are one of the easiest ways to spot a fake account. If a random person messages you, there’s a chance it’s a scam. The scammer may pretend to be a celebrity or someone you know in an attempt to trick you, but you can follow the above tips to see if the account is legitimate. Plus, look for account verification.
If you get any messages encouraging you to click a link or send personal information, make sure you report the account.
5. Use a Fake Instagram Account Checker
If worst comes to worst, you can use a fake Instagram account checker to get to the bottom of these things. However, these tools are not entirely accurate and might give you a false result. Generally, free tools will check the same things you can investigate yourself.
However, there are some tools that look into suspicious patterns in account activity. These can tell you if an account is behaving suspiciously or if the user behind it has previously created fake accounts.
It’s essential to be careful with these tools, as some of them can be scams themselves. Do not enter your log-in information to these sites, and be careful when using any third-party tools.
How To Report a Fake Instagram Account
As an Instagram user, it’s more a question of when – not if – you will encounter fake Instagram accounts. Here’s how to report a fake Instagram account when the time comes:
- Check if it’s fake: Firstly, make sure the Instagram profile is really fake. Sometimes, profiles might look fake, but they’re real. Do your due diligence on suspicious accounts before reacting.
- Report it: If it’s really fake, then you can report the account. Instagram has a number of set options, including fake accounts, impersonation, and spam.
- Block it: Next, you can block the account if you feel unsafe. When reporting, Instagram will give you the option to block the account and all future accounts created by the same user. Alternatively, you can go to the account’s profile, tap the three dots in the top right corner, and then select ‘Block.’
- Protect your privacy: If possible, try to remain as private as possible online. Do not share sensitive information, including where you live or any financial details and passwords. If you suspect bots have put your account at risk, consider changing your password or privacy settings.
- Stay vigilant: Above all else, make sure you are careful when using any social media accounts online. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity, and don’t be afraid to block any accounts you think are fake.
How Does Instagram Combat Fake Accounts?
Instagram has a strong stance against fake Instagram accounts, and it tries to take them down whenever it can. There are several ways it tries to protect users from fake accounts.
The verification system is one of them. With notable figures, you can tell if you are dealing with a fake profile because it won’t have the verified Blue Tick. Although, in 2023, Meta is testing a new verification process for all users, in which you can get a verified badge by providing Instagram with government ID and a video selfie. It shows other users that your account is really you. Note, however, that Meta Verified will come at a monthly cost.
The reporting system is also vital for removing fake Instagram accounts. When another user reports a suspicious account, Instagram looks into it. They may remove an account if they think it is a bot or other fake account.
Furthermore, Instagram uses machine learning to detect bots. Its algorithms can detect suspicious activity patterns, such as spamming likes, comments and DMs. When an account is acting suspiciously, Instagram may suspend or block it.
You may occasionally notice that you lose a large chunk of followers in a short space of time. Sometimes, this is because Instagram is mass-removing bot accounts. Although it can be disheartening to see your follower count decreasing, this is actually a good thing. At the end of the day, it helps to keep the platform safe and secure, providing an environment where your business can thrive.
Protecting Your Social Media From Fake Instagram Accounts
Generally, the best way to protect yourself from fake Instagram accounts is to keep your account private. However, this may not be possible if you rely on Instagram for income.
Fortunately, it’s quite easy to keep your account safe, regardless. Firstly, set a strong password and enable two-factor authentication to keep you safe from hackers. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter a unique code in addition to your password, alerting you when someone is trying to log in.
Next, keep an eye on your followers and commenters. If you have a smaller following, you can do a follower cleanup every once in a while. Go through your follower list, tap the three dots on the profiles you want to delete and click “Remove Follower” in the pop-up menu.
Larger accounts can generally get on with their day without having to consistently check who is following them. However, you must be wary of potential scammers and fake accounts lurking in your inbox. You can use a fake Instagram account checker like Modash to see if an account is legitimate.
How To Find Out Who Made a Fake Instagram Account
Generally, you don’t need to know who’s behind a fake account. The process can be quite difficult and time-consuming. That said, if you really want to know how to find out who made a fake Instagram account, you can follow these steps:
- Look for clues in the account profile, which might give away some identifiers. If you know the person behind it, then there is a chance you can figure it out this way.
- Check out the followers and following. If someone is making fake Instagram accounts to target certain communities, there is a chance that somebody in their following knows who they are.
Unfortunately, finding out who owns a fake account is often impossible. Even in cases of cyberbullying, the police may struggle to track down the owner. As a result, it’s best not to waste your time hunting the fake accounts that follow you; instead, report the account, block it, and move on.
Growing Your Account Organically
At Path Social, we’ve built up an in-house platform for Instagram influencers with a proprietary AI targeting algorithm for the past decade. That’s how we reach organic users who are targeted, interested and engaged, and helping you avoid the need for fake Instagram accounts. And that’s why no one can replicate our results, which means you’ll build an Instagram community that lasts!