Spammy Creeps Mimicking Real Instagram Users’ Accounts Using Their Own Photos

It's a mirror, get it? (bnilsen)

It’s a mirror, get it? (bnilsen)

How many online versions of you are there out there? While it might be relatively easy to crack down on a spammer trying to use your email address or hack into your social media accounts, there could be multiple versions of you on Instagram without any hint that they exist — until they start tagging your friends.

The Verge reports that users — including one of its own staffers — have found their own photos copied into what appear to be spambot accounts, complete with profile pic and even those that have real life friends tagged in them.

That re-tagging of a friend in the spambot’s account might be the only way a user is alerted to the mimicry, which was the case for The Verge’s video director.

These spammy accounts usually follow thousands of accounts but only have a few followers themselves, if any, so it’s not like they’re trying be popular or pretend to be a celebrity. These are just normal people’s accounts they’re targeting.

So what does someone have to gain by mirroring your Instagram account? It seems the fake accounts can then be sold on the social media black market to anyone who needs Instagram followers and likes, effectively getting around Instagram’s protections against spammy accounts not linked to real people.

“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.”

When you do report an impersonator, be ready to send Instagram a photo of a government ID to provide proof that you say who you say you are.

And if you’re concerned about someone mimicking your account, especially since they might not tip you off by tagging your pals, you can always set your profile to “Private,” thus only allowing approved followers access to your photos.

It’s your face. It’s your photos. Meet the creepiest kind of Instagram spambot [The Verge]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.