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Create your own social media calendar with a step-by-step guide, or use this free calendar template to get planning right away.How to Recognize and Block Fake Instagram Accounts

Over the past decade, Instagram has grown exponentially, with more than a billion monthly active users. However, with that increase in users has come an equal rise in fake accounts.

According to this report, as of 2019, there were approximately 95 million fake Instagram accounts, representing about 9.5% of the platform's total user base​. With about 1 billion active users, that means roughly 1 in 10 Instagram accounts are fake.

You’ve probably received a weird-looking comment or direct message on Instagram that you could immediately tell was a scam. But fake accounts are becoming increasingly sophisticated as they take on a more “human” tone.

These malicious profiles are often created by scammers to spread misinformation, engage in phishing, and even perpetrate cyberbullying. As an Instagram user, you have the power to spot fake accounts and take them down, and in this article, we explore how to do that.

Why bother with fake accounts?

Even if you think you can smell a scam from a mile away, it’s not always cut and dried. Scammers are likely attempting: 

  • Personal information theft: Fake accounts often engage in phishing, where they trick users into revealing personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive data.
  • Spreading misinformation: These accounts can spread false information, which can harm reputations, influence public opinion, and even impact elections.
  • Cyberbullying and harassment: Some fake accounts are created to target individuals with malicious intent, leading to cyberbullying and harassment​​. Hackers are 
  • Financial scams: Many fake accounts promote get-rich-quick schemes or fake products and services, leading to financial loss for unsuspecting users​. 

Learning to recognize and block these accounts helps protect not only your experience on social media but also the integrity of the platform and contributes to a safer online community​.

Types of fake Instagram accounts

Fake accounts can take various forms, each serving different malicious purposes. Here are some common types:

  • Bots are automated accounts programmed to perform specific actions such as liking posts, following users, or leaving comments. They are often used to inflate engagement metrics or spread spam​.
  • Impersonation accounts mimic real users by using their names, photos, and personal information. They are typically created to deceive followers, steal identities, or damage reputations.
  • Scam profiles are accounts designed to defraud users by promoting fake products, get-rich-quick schemes, or phishing for personal information. Scam profiles often lure victims with too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • Inactive or incomplete profiles that have minimal profile information and irregular activity. They are often placeholders for future scams or used to inflate follower counts.
  • Catfish accounts are profiles that use fake identities, often with stolen photos, to scam others into forming relationships. These accounts are commonly used for emotional manipulation or financial scams​.

People also create fake accounts for less malicious reasons, like testing or for privacy reasons, but they usually don’t spam or scam other users.

9 ways to spot fake Instagram accounts

Here are some tips for spotting fake accounts on Instagram.

Tip 1: Use Instagram’s ‘About this account’ feature

A user on Reddit suggested this helpful tip. 

Visit the profile you suspect of being fake, and select the three dots in the top right for profile options. 

Select ‘About this account’ (some profiles hide it), and it tells you the country the account was made in, how many past usernames they’ve had, and when the account was created. 

If the country doesn't match what the profile says, the account is very recent, or the username has changed frequently in a short space of time, it might be fake. 

Tip 2: Inconsistent content

Compare the content on the page to the profile description – sometimes, they don't add up. 

For example, if the description says the user is a beauty blogger, but there are no pictures on the profile related to makeup or skincare, it might be fake. 

Also, if their Instagram posts use irrelevant hashtags or have low and irrelevant engagement on posts, that can indicate a fake account.

Tip 3: Inconsistent bio

Fake Instagram accounts often have bios that don't match the typical patterns of genuine users. These inconsistencies can include:

  • Copied bios: Many fake profiles use bios that are directly copied from real accounts but with minor changes such as added characters, numbers, or symbols to avoid detection.
  • Incomplete or vague information: Some fake accounts have bios that are either very sparse or filled with generic statements and spelling mistakes.
  • Promotional or irrelevant content: Bios that focus on promotions, links to external websites, or irrelevant content unrelated to the user's supposed identity are red flags.

In @leifoveandsnapses’ post about an impersonation account, a few inconsistencies in the spelling of the bio highlight that it’s a fake account.

Tip 4: Spammy DMs

Spammy DMs have been part of my Instagram experience for a long time. They often have several telltale characteristics:

  • Generic and impersonal messages: These messages often lack personalization and can clearly be sent to many users simultaneously.
  • Too-good-to-be-true offers: Messages offering unrealistic opportunities, such as winning large sums of money or exclusive deals. 
  • Phishing links: Links that redirect to suspicious websites designed to steal personal information.

These accounts might send messages promoting suspicious websites, offering "brand partnerships" that require personal information, or encouraging users to click on links to claim prizes. If you’re worried about missing out on an opportunity, ask them to email you – they usually don’t.

Tip 5: Random or irrelevant comments

Comments from fake accounts are usually very obvious. They’ll often include generic praise, random emojis, or irrelevant statements that don't relate to the post's content.

Comments that are overly repetitive or appear in large numbers under multiple posts are likely generated by bots. 

Tip 6: Offer money or promote products and services aggressively

Messages or posts claiming that you can make a lot of money quickly, win expensive prizes, or get exclusive discounts are common tactics fake accounts use.

DO NOT give them any of your information. Interacting with these accounts can lead to financial loss, stolen personal information, or being scammed into purchasing fake products​.

Tip 7: Poor follower-to-following ratio

Fake accounts often follow many users but have very few followers themselves. This can indicate an attempt to appear popular or to attract more followers through follow-back strategies. 

An account following 5000 people but only having 50 Instagram followers is a clear red flag. In addition, if an account seems to have mostly fake followers, that can indicate that it’s fake.

Tip 8: Generic or stock photos as profile pictures

Using stock photos or images of attractive people can make the account seem more appealing and trustworthy at first glance. However, these images are often generic and widely available online.

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If you’re suspicious, perform a reverse image search of the profile picture. The account is likely fake if it appears on multiple sites or as a stock image.

Also, profile pictures that are just the default icon you get on Instagram are usually spam accounts as most people put a username.

[Screenshot]

Tip 9: Illogical usernames

Fake accounts often use usernames that are random combinations of letters and numbers or slight variations of real usernames with added symbols or numbers. 

Even though that super creative Instagram username you really liked has probably been used by someone, there are usually tell-tale signs. Here’s an example from user @knutwylde.

A real username might be "johndoe123," while a fake version could be "j0hn_d0e_123" or "john_doe_!!" These minor alterations can trick users into thinking the account is legitimate.​

How to block a fake Instagram account

Block an Instagram account from its profile

Blocking a fake Instagram account via its profile is a straightforward process. Follow these steps:

Step 1: In the Instagram app, navigate to the account profile you want to block. You can do this by clicking on their username or searching for it directly.

Step 2: In the top-right corner of the profile page, tap on the three dots (menu icon).

Step 3: Select the "Block" option from the dropdown menu.

Step 4: A confirmation prompt will appear. Confirm that you want to block the account by tapping "Block" again.

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Instagram provides an additional option to preemptively block any future accounts that the same user might create. When you block an account, you may see an option like "Block this account and new accounts they may create." Selecting this option helps prevent the blocked user from contacting you through new accounts in the future.

How to block an Instagram account directly from DMs

If you receive a suspicious or spammy direct message (DM) from a fake Instagram profile, you can block it directly from your inbox. Here’s how:

Step 1: Visit your Instagram inbox in the top right of the app and open the message from the account you want to block.

Step 2: Within the message thread, tap on the three dots (menu icon) in the top-right corner.

Step 3: From the options that appear, select "Block."

Step 4: Confirm your action by tapping "Block" again on the confirmation screen.

If you receive a spam message, report it to Instagram. You can do this by tapping on the message, selecting the menu icon, and choosing "Report." This helps Instagram identify and take action against fake accounts​.

How to report an impersonation account on Instagram

Reporting an impersonation account on Instagram is essential for maintaining the integrity of the platform and protecting users from identity theft and other malicious activities. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to report these accounts:

Step 1: Navigate to the profile of the account that you want to report.

Step 2: Tap on the three dots (menu icon) in the top-right corner of the profile page.

Step 3: From the dropdown menu, select "Report."

Step 4: Select "It's Pretending to Be Someone Else" from the list of options provided. This specifically addresses impersonation concerns.

Step 5: Instagram will prompt you to specify who the account is impersonating. Options typically include "Me," "Someone I Know," or "A Celebrity/Public Figure." Select the appropriate option.

Step 6: Follow any additional instructions Instagram provides and submit the report. Instagram may ask for further information or evidence to support your claim.

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Check this guide for further details on reporting an imposter on Instagram

What to include when reporting an impersonation account on Instagram

Providing detailed and accurate information can help Instagram take swift action when reporting an impersonation account. Here are some tips on what to include:

  • Capture the impersonating account’s posts, stories, or messages through screenshots
  • Provide a link to the real profile.
  • Explain how the account is impersonating you.
  • Include any harmful activities like spreading false information or harassment.

Take these tips with you to other social media platforms

Fake accounts aren’t a problem exclusive to Instagram – be sure to express the same amount of caution on your other social media platforms.

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