Instagram Imposters

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Instagram Imposters

Jan 12, 2022

Our sixth minisode of the fifth season of “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere. In minisodes, we answer questions that our listeners have emailed Jon. In this minisode, Jon responds to an email about fake social media accounts that steal the identity of real influencers.


A transcript of the episode follows:

This week’s email comes from Mari.

Hey Jon,
My mom reads the LA Times and she showed me an article about how mediums and psychics are being impersonated on Instagram with fake accounts and scamming people. I thought it was pretty interesting and wanted to see if you had heard about this. What are your thoughts?

Mari, thanks for the email and for sharing this article with me. Like your mom, I am also one of the rare people who still reads the LA Times.

The problem that you are asking about is becoming more common. Fake accounts that impersonate a social media influencer or personality are being set up to try to trick followers of the real person. The imposter will set up a profile that looks exactly like the real one—usually with the same profile picture and a username that looks identical, but maybe with a typo or an extra letter. Then the fake profile will direct message followers of the real account, hoping to trick them into thinking they are getting a DM from the influencer that they actually follow. The message will often be a further scam, trying to sell a fake product or service or asking for a donation.

This has especially been happening with psychics and tarot card readers and other air quote “spiritualists,” since they have found growing popularity and exposure through Social Media during the pandemic. Especially in these cases, followers are looking for comfort and guidance facing the unknowns of pandemic life, and that can make them especially vulnerable to these scams, since it can feel like the sign they’ve been looking for, when in reality it’s a scammer.

But this can happen in other cases too. According to Laura Eimiller, a spokesperson for the FBI, “scammers prey on people’s vulnerabilities. If they know someone is sensitive to tarot or psychic readings, they’ll use that. If they know someone loves dogs, they’ll use that. If they know someone wants to leave a nest egg for their grandkids, they’ll use that too.”

As far as ways to prevent yourself from falling victim to any scams, it’s a wise rule of thumb to not exchange money through DMs in general. And if you are an influencer, you should set up a separate website for products or services you sell and take payments through there and tell your followers that you will never solicit through DMs for this very reason.

Also, Instagram verification (where you get the blue check mark on the profile) is helpful to distinguish a real profile from a fake profile, but as most are surely aware, that process can be hit-or-miss and is not widely rolled out, so many real profiles are not verified.

And lastly, if you find that someone is impersonating your account, the fastest way to stop this is reporting the profile directly through the platform. And then take counter-measures to alert your followers that you won’t solicit any transactions through direct messages.

The Creative Influencer is a weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California. Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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