How can you tell if an Instagram account is fake?
Find out how to spot these scams and protect yourself with our guide to fake Instagram accounts and other social media scams.
6 min read
A favorite among influencers and brands, Instagram brought together nearly 1.3 billion monthly active users in 2021. With a predominantly young target audience, the social network created by Mike Krieger and Kevin Systromn—and later acquired by Facebook—now tends to be rife with online scams. Find out how to spot these scams and protect yourself with our guide to fake Instagram accounts and other social media scams.
What kinds of scams are out there on Instagram?
81% of account holders say they use Instagram to find new products and services. For cybercriminals, Instagram is simply another online space where they can propagate scams. The most common scams found on the platform tend to be:
- Phishing. This often comes in the form of a private message from an account you’ve never interacted with before, prompting you to click on a link. The aim here is to obtain your private data (such as your login details) via a virus attached to the link—and then hack your account.
- False offers for brand collaborations. So-called “brands” will sometimes send influencers fake collaboration offers with the goal of getting ahold of their bank details. Sometimes this type of scam will also look like an offer to take part in a survey or competition, to trick users into clicking on an external link.
- Fake competitions, fake loan offers at competitive rates and other “miracle” investments, too-good-to-be-true job offers, and attempted credit card fraud. These scams follow the same principle as fake collaborations—tricking victims into believing that they’ve won some kind of prize or perk. Once again, the scammers are actually trying to get hold of people’s money or personal data.
- Emotional scams. This type of online scam is extremely common, and exists well beyond Instagram. The tactic involves getting in touch with someone, and building a sense of trust and closeness. The cybercriminal then requests money to help with an emergency—like getting a visa, paying for their trip to join a loved one, or helping out their family.
In most of these cases, users are contacted through a fake Instagram account. This is why it’s so important to know how to spot a fake account—so you can protect yourself against them.
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How can you tell if an Instagram account is fake?
Are you having doubts as to whether that Instagram profile is real or not? Here are a few clues to help you recognize a fake Instagram account:
- The account follows substantially more accounts than it has followers—or it has no followers and isn’t following anyone
- Their profile description seems too vague
- The account has no profile picture
- The account has only published a few posts, or none at all
- Posts are mainly about promotions or “competitions”
- The account claims to be a celebrity, but there’s no blue tick next to their profile
- The account name looks like other existing accounts, but a few characters or letters have been changed
- The account name seems odd
Many cybercriminals use fake Instagram account generators. As their goal is to create hundreds of accounts in a short amount of time, they don’t have time to fine tune or curate them. Given this, it’s usually easy to spot fake accounts if you look closely.
Identity theft on Instagram
Thanks to phishing, it’s all too easy for scammers to collect enough information about you—including your name, surname, photos, date of birth, password, or e-mail address—in order to steal your identity and create an account that passes as yours. This is called identity theft.
The main purpose of identity theft on Instagram is to scam the followers of the person whose identity the cybercriminal has stolen. This is why it’s so important to report these fake accounts, so that the platform can remove them quickly.
If you receive a private message from someone posing as a person or a brand, asking you to click on a link—whatever you do, don’t click. Instead, check the profile for any signs of a scam, and try contacting your friend, or the brand, by another means to make sure it’s really their account.
How to report and delete a fake Instagram account
Here are the steps you can take to report a fake Instagram account:
- Click on the profile
- Click the three dots on the right
- Select Report, and then follow the instructions
You can also email Instagram at email@example.com. Don’t worry, reports are always anonymous, so your identity won’t be revealed to the owner of the fake Instagram account.
Be aware, however, that to get an Instagram account deleted or content deemed inappropriate, the account must be in violation of community rules. These include:
- Sharing unwanted content
- Posting images of a sexual nature
- Spreading hateful/racist/violent ideas or symbols
- Practicing bullying or harassment
- Selling illegal goods
- Violating intellectual property rights
- Sharing content relating to suicide or self-harm
Instagram’s teams will then check to see if the reported account is in violation of its terms of service. They can take different actions, ranging from a “shadowban” (restricting the account’s visibility), to deleting a post, or the account itself.
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How to report identity theft on Instagram
Only the victim of identity theft can report it to Instagram. To do this, you’ll need to fill out this form. You’ll be asked to fill in your name, email address, the name of the fake account, and provide a photo of your ID along with a description of the situation. You’ll then receive a confirmation email. After that, the Instagram team will then verify the identity—which can take several days or weeks—before deleting the account.
In addition, just like on Facebook, you can also file an identity theft complaint on Instagram. Identity theft is an offense (article 226-4-1 of the Criminal Code) and is punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of €15,000. The law specifies: “This offense is punishable by the same penalties when it is committed on a public online communication network.” The punishment for identity theft on Instagram is thus the same as for “conventional” identity theft.
How to recognize N26’s Instagram account
With online scams on the rise again, N26 is keeping an eye on social networks, especially Instagram. As is the case with many brands, malicious people can impersonate us and start following you if your Instagram account is public—and if your account is private, they can send you a follow request or a direct message.
First, be aware that N26 will never send you a private message on Instagram out of the blue, unless you have contacted us for support. As explained above, caution is key in all your interactions on social networks. We recommend staying vigilant and never clicking links sent by suspicious accounts.
N26 has an official Instagram account in France: @N26FR, blue-tick verified. The account has numerous followers, and all the content posted is in line with our brand design and identity. We’ve been posting regularly since June 2019, when we created our Instagram account.
Note that the only other accounts we have are our English and Italian accounts, @N26 and @N26IT.
So if a fake Instagram account masquerades as us, see if:
- It has just been created
- It has very few followers
- It publishes posts that receive only a few likes or comments
- It posts content that doesn’t meet our design standards
- The posts are full of errors and/or are infrequent
- It’s advertising too-good-to-be-true offers for loans or financial investments
If you’ve seen such an account, be wary. And if in doubt, report the account to Instagram.
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