Instagram: A DIY Guide to Handling Impersonators
They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but when it comes to your online identity sometimes imitation is less flattery and closer to identity theft. You can imagine my surprise when I found myself in precisely that situation.
Why does this happen in the first place?
Let’s be real: there could be a lot of reasons someone would impersonate you because the internet is a weird place.
- Maybe the person just likes your photos
- Maybe they intend to catfish someone (pretend to look like someone else in order to manipulate other people)
- Maybe they intend to actually impersonate you (steal details of your life)
Whatever the reasoning, it’s generally not a good thing to have someone going around using your face and photos (or Intellectual Property) for very long.
Step 1: Identify that someone is impersonating you
Lots of accounts repost photos properly with credit. When those accounts repost they (should) tag you, which means you’ll get notified that your photo has popped up somewhere else on the web and can bookmark it or keep track of it accordingly. It also means that anyone looking at it can track the photo back to your account, no shenanigans.
Step 1 is actually the hardest part, because unless you see the offending account yourself (or someone who knows you sees it) the scammer can theoretically get away with it forever.
I only found out because one of my followers messaged me (reason #2 to check your outer-inbox) to tell me that she’d seen an account using my photos. The scammer’s mistake was following someone who follows me and is familiar with my account.
Step 2: Investigate
Naturally, my first inclination was to check what this account was actually doing. The photo choices seemed pretty innocuous and a little random. It seemed that most of them had been posted in the past 24 hours, so even if someone was trying to do something sketchy they didn’t have much time to do anything.
I thought it was weird that the account hijacked my lifestyle-y photos (versus the computer ones which on average are much more successful). Honestly I didn’t really care until I got to a post that was a picture of me and my step-grandfather together, with a caption that was obviously someone trying to pass the photo off as their own.
That was the point at which I opened my web browser and started Googling.
Step 3: Report them through Instagram’s Formal Process
A simple Google search sent me to Instagram’s help page regarding impersonation. I did it all on my mobile phone in my work parking-lot (so that should tell you how easy it is).
Note: You can only file a report if it’s your account or your child’s account (or someone whom you are the guardian to)
This is the information they’ll need:
- Full Name
- Email Address
- The full name listed on the account that you’re reporting (this means YOUR account, I spent a while trying to figure this one out)
- The name of the reporting account (once again, this is YOUR account)
- A legal form of identification with the address/id numbers blacked out (such as driver’s license or passport)
- The reported account name (the person impersonating you)
- A description of what’s going on (I personally included the photo of my grandfather and I from both my account and the impersonator’s account and said “I think this person is intending to mislead people based on this caption”)
Step 4: Wait
They got back to me within 24 hours with a very simple confirmation email saying that the account had been taken down. When I went to look for the account it was nowhere to be found, so I’m satisfied that it’s no longer in existence.
If someone’s impersonating you, follow the link here to fill out Instagram’s form
You may never find out exactly why someone’s created the account, but the hardest part of getting rid of an impersonation is finding it in the first place. Once you’ve identified the account, the process of reporting it is short and sweet. Thank God for some things being simple on the internet.