Fake accounts are a fact of life on social media. But how do you spot a fake Instagram account so that you don’t waste your time and (more importantly) don’t get scammed?
More than 2 billion people use Instagram once a month, making it the fourth most popular social app worldwide. About 8 percent of Instagram accounts are reportedly fake.
Of course, there are many possible reasons behind fake accounts, including:
- Selling fake products or services
- Impersonating others, as known as catfishing
- Inflating follower numbers
- Using bots for automated activity
In addition, by spotting fake Instagram accounts, you’ll better avoid typical scams, such as:
- Phishing, in which a fake account will message you a link and a reason to click on it, but by doing so, a virus attached to the link and steal your login information and other data.
- False brand collaborations that aim to steal your bank account information.
- Fake competition prizes, loan offers and more that also aim to steal your bank account information.
- Emotional scams, where the scammer attempts to get close to you and earn your trust as a friend or romantic interest in hopes of being sent money later on.
Fortunately, fake Instagram accounts aren’t terribly difficult to identify. However, the appearance of fake accounts can vary depending on the purpose and the people behind them. The following are five signs for you to spot a fake Instagram account.
Examine the Instagram account
A good place to start is by looking at the suspected account’s Instagram bio. Because fake accounts often are created en masse, there likely will be no bio description or a very generic one.
Often, photos are stolen from real people. Running a reverse image search on such tools as Google Images or Social Catfish can help you identify stolen photos (and the real account that’s the source of the photos). Depending on those search results, you can better understand whether an Instagram account is fake or not.
Of course, the lack of any profile photo is a sign of a fake account as well.
Also, take a look at the account name. If a few characters or letters have been changed (or if the account name seems odd in general), it’s likely a fake Instagram account.
No original posts found
Most fake Instagram accounts either rarely or never post. Remember, bot accounts are created at a high volume to boost follower counts. So, posting content isn’t a concern for many fake accounts.
Granted, not everyone posts a ton on Instagram. But when leveraged with other red flags: If a suspected account has little to no posts, it’s likely fake. If the profile is private, you can still see the post count as a visible number at the top of the account’s profile.
If there are some posts, they may consist entirely of promotional content and suspicious giveaways. They also might be of different people in the sense that photos of attractive women who look similar but are not the same person. Either way, be wary of these types of posts. They’re likely indicative of a fake account.
High number of followers but low engagement
Fake accounts can easily buy lots of followers and likes to help look like they are popular, real accounts. But dig through the liked posts. Are there any comments? If so, what do those comments say? Irrelevant or spammy comments don’t count.
Low-quality engagement is a clear sign of purchased followers, and while real accounts can buy followers, too, it’s a red flag for fake accounts, for sure.
On the flip side, having zero followers is a sign of a fake account as well.
Following a high number of accounts
Bots often are set to follow thousands of Instagram accounts, so a high following count can also be a red flag that the account you’re looking at is fake. Keep an eye out for an out-of-whack following-to-follower ratio.
On the flip side, the account could be following zero other accounts, which could signal a fake account as well.
Relatively new account
Unlike Facebook, which can show a “joined” date on profiles, you’ll have to dig a little bit to understand whether a potentially fake Instagram account is fairly new.
Start looking through available posts (if there are any). If they’re all pretty new and/or batches of photos have been uploaded at about the same time, it’s likely the account is fake.
If you find that an Instagram account is obviously fake, you can easily report it by navigating to the account’s profile, clicking on the three dots on the right side of the screen and selecting “Report.” Follow the instructions given.
Reporting can help reduce the number of fake Instagram accounts following you if you’re noticing a high occurrence of those.
Beyond reporting fake accounts, you’ll also be able to save yourself and/or your brand the time and hassle of potentially being scammed.
Check out the 14 biggest mistakes companies make on Instagram so that you can avoid them. You can also grow your Instagram followers the right way with these seven tools.
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