How to Track a Fake Instagram Account: Parents Edition

9 min read by Bogdi

published un an în urmă, updated 5 luni în urmă

There are many reasons to be worried as a parent when your child first ventures into the world of social media. Your child could be subject to disturbing images, communication with strangers, and even fake accounts. Fake accounts are a fairly widespread issue on social media, particularly Instagram. Fortunately, there are ways for a parent to track fake accounts.

There are several ways to track the location of a fake Instagram account. You can check the location tags in any post made by the Instagram account. Additionally, you can contact Instagram directly if the fraudulent Instagram account in question is impersonating you or your child.

While both of these options can help resolve the issue, these methods are relatively limited regarding their effectiveness. There are also not many other ways for resolving issues related to fake Instagram accounts apart from these options. Still, they are worth exploring. Keep reading to learn more about these methods and other steps you can take to track fake accounts.

How to Tell if An Instagram Account is Fake

Being the parent of a child that has been raised entirely during the internet age can sometimes feel like you two are speaking different languages regarding internet culture and vernacular. While it may be tempting to simply act on your child's social media usage, it is better first to learn how to speak internet language before acting.

This will not only allow you to better understand your child's experience on social media, but it will also allow you to detect harmful or fake content on social media more effectively. When it comes to telling whether or not an Instagram account is fake, there are several things you can learn about the social media platform that will make you more adept at locating fake accounts.

Here is a list of the things to look out for on Instagram in deciphering whether or not an Instagram account is fake:

Fraudulent Identity

The most obvious way to tell if an Instagram account is fraudulent is if they are impersonating you or someone in your family. Some fraudulent Instagram accounts may also attempt to use falsified personas of people in your social circle to connect with you.

Ultimately, the best method for checking whether or not these accounts are truly your friends' accounts is to reach out to your friends on another platform where their identity is verified. Additionally, you can follow any of the steps listed below.

High Follower Count with Low Engagement

Regardless of how many followers an Instagram account has, low engagement is a typical warning sign of a fake Instagram account. Engagement essentially refers to the amount a user posts and interacts with other users on a social media platform. Low engagement may be a sign of fraudulence, but it also may simply be a case of apathy. However, low engagement mixed in with a high follower count generally means there is fraudulence associated with this account.

Generic Bio

A less obvious sign that an Instagram account may be fake can be observed just below the follower and following count of the account. This section is dedicated to the account's bio, which is essentially a place where users can write a short blurb about themselves or their content. While bios can range depending on the user, fake bios will typically use extremely short bios that verge on nonsensical.

Posts that Promote a Product

Another typical sign that an Instagram may be fraudulent will reveal itself in posts from the account that promote a product. This sign is tricky because many legitimate accounts on Instagram use their platforms to promote products and services.

To distinguish the fake from the legitimate, you may refer to the frequency of these promotional posts and the ratio of promotional posts to regular posts. Additionally, you may verify the legitimacy of the product being peddled.

Following Many Other Accounts

One of the more blatant signs of a fake Instagram account can be observed in the number of users that account is following. Many fake Instagram accounts will use tactics popularized by phishers and scammers, targeting a large number of people with a broadly appealing account to cast as wide a net as possible.

Recent Creation Date

Finally, a frequent attribute of many fake Instagram accounts is a recent creation date. While many recently created Instagram accounts are not fraudulent, most fraudulent Instagram accounts were created recently. This is because Instagram has not yet had sufficient time to investigate the account and remove it from its platform. Thus, if the account possesses any of the attributes listed above and it was recently created, then it is likely that the account is fake.

If you check the Instagram account in question for all of the signs listed above, you should be able to determine whether or not the account in question is fraudulent.

What Steps Should You Take After Locating a Fake Instagram Account?

Once you have detected that an Instagram account is fake, you will undoubtedly be inclined to act first and ask questions later. However, you must know precisely what actions are at your disposal when dealing with a fake Instagram account before proceeding.

There are a few methods that you can take to remove the fake account from Instagram or, at the very least, prevent the account from contacting you or your child's account. However, it is essential first to note that these methods are not always practical. Even the methods that are effective may take some time to produce the desired results.

Now, with that disclaimer in mind, let's take a look at some of the steps you can take after locating a fake Instagram account:

Check Location Tags

After deciphering that an Instagram account is fake, the first thing you should do is to check the location tags on every one of the account's posts. You should do this to check whether these posts' location is in your local area, elsewhere, or not listed. If these posts' location is in your local area, then the fake account may be curated by someone you know. However, it is worth noting that there is no way of verifying that the location tags on a post are the user's valid location.

Block the Account

Then the following action you should take, particularly if the account is harassing or attempting to contact you or your child's account, is to block the account. While this may not completely resolve your issue if the account is impersonating you or someone you know, this will at least prevent the account from contacting you or your child, causing further damage.

Contact Instagram

Subsequently, after completing these steps, you should contact Instagram to see what they can do regarding the fraudulent account. If someone is impersonating you or your child on Instagram, you can go to Instagram's help center, which will lead you to a form you can fill out. This may take some time to be addressed, but this step is the best way at the moment to get fake accounts removed from Instagram.

Verify Your Instagram Account

Finally, you should take the necessary steps to verify your own personal Instagram account or create one if you have not already. If you already have an account, you can verify it by associating your phone number and email with the account.

Additionally, you can promote the account on other platforms to ensure your friends and family know which account is your actual account. If you do not currently have an Instagram account, you may actually be doing yourself more harm by refusing to make one, as it is tougher to prove a fake account is not you when you have no legitimate account to point to.

Ultimately, while these methods may not be as quick and effective as you may like, these are the best methods you can take through Instagram to remove fake accounts and block them from contacting you or your child.

How Can You Tell a Fake Instagram Location?

As the first step listed in the section above involves examining the account's location tags in all of its posts, you may be wondering how exactly you can tell the difference between a real and fake location tag on Instagram.

The short answer is you ultimately cannot. While Instagram will suggest location tags that are in your general area, users are not required to select these suggested location tags. Additionally, users can choose to use location tags that are not even close to where they are actually located.

Some websites peddle the notion of tracking down the IP address of Instagram users. However, this kind of service is obviously a massive infringement of people's privacy rights and is likely not even possible through these websites.

Ultimately, your attempts to track down the users behind any fake accounts will likely end up fruitless without some form of outside help.

How to Trace Fake Accounts

While doing your own investigative work will likely end up fruitless, hiring outside help, such as a private investigator, may actually lead to actual results. Still, it is worth noting that private investigators are not entirely effective at locating the users behind these fake accounts. This can be due to the limitations of an online investigation or the cunning nature of some users.

The users behind most types of fraudulent accounts create them with the primary motive of evading identification. While there are undoubtedly many methods at an investigator's disposal to identify a person online, there are just as many methods at a criminal's disposal to evade identification.

Furthermore, all it takes is a little common sense on the internet to evade detection. The only things that are accessible about a person on the internet are the things that that person chooses to put out there. Thus, as a result, these accounts are typically anonymous and contain little to no information about the actual user.

With this being said, on the internet, every online action will leave a digital footprint. This means that any action taken by the user on the internet may be traceable. This is particularly true if the user has not done an exceptional job covering up any digital footprint they may have left. Even the savviest user will slip up every once and a while. Therefore, there is hope.

How to Identify User Behind Fraudulent Account

Whether you choose to hire outside help, such as a private investigator, or choose to employ legal help, such as police, will dictate the methods they will take to identifying a user behind a fraudulent account.

Private investigators may use investigative tools, techniques, and software to locate and identify anonymous accounts online. These tools, techniques, and software may include the things listed below:

  • Advanced search tools: Advanced search tools are essentially a set of filters designed to narrow the broad scope of results that may follow a search query. These search tools can have to do with the content of the results, but they can also segregate results by the date they were published or even by the site they are posted on.
  • Advanced link analysis: Advanced link analysis is a technique that uses the relationship between nodes to analyze patterns within the data. This analysis typically includes data processing, transformation, analysis, and visualization and can help find matching data through known patterns. This specific facet can help locate the user behind a fraudulent Instagram account.
  • Metadata tracing: Metadata is essentially the data representing all of the hidden, or unseen, properties of a file. Every file type has metadata, which is used to describe the information present in the file to a computer. By tracing this metadata, you may be able to decipher new information about the files posted by this fraudulent user, and as a result, the user themselves.
  • Set Up a Honeypot or Tripwire: Sometimes, the best method when being attacked is to go on the offensive yourself. Honeypots and tripwires are security mechanisms designed to detect and counteract cases of unauthorized use of information systems. Thus, if someone is fraudulently using an Instagram account, you may be able to trap them by employing a honeypot or tripwire.
  • Subpoena: Finally, the private investigators may simply subpoena the website where this fraudulence is taking place to unearth the information related to the user. In this case, that website would be Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. So, the subpoena would be fought by one of the strongest legal teams in the world. Thus, the options listed prior to this one may be a better bet.

Costs Associated with Tracking a Fake Account

While it may be tempting to hire outside help, such as a private investigator, to catch the perpetrator behind this fake Instagram account, it is worth noting that these investigations come with a cost. The monetary cost of these investigations can run steep, especially as many firms or individuals bill hourly.

For one example, Bosco Legal Services contends that performing the investigation and gathering the evidence typically costs between $2,500 and $5,000. This price can increase depending on how long the investigation goes on.

Also, this price does not even factor in taking legal action once the perpetrator has been identified. In order to take legal action, you will need to retain an attorney. The average costs related to retaining an attorney will start between $5,000 and $10,000. These costs will only increase as you search for more established, reputable attorneys.

Can You Sue for Online Defamation?

Ultimately, the answer to this question is that it depends. There are certainly cases in which a person who was defamed online has won a defamation suit. However, there are plenty of other cases in which those who have been defamed have lost. A notable example of a defamation case that was lost occurred with this story involving Elon Musk on Twitter.

It is also important to note that different state laws may make these suits easier or harder to even take to court. For example, in California, you only have one year from the date of the defamatory statement to bring a defamation claim against someone.

When Does a Fake Account Break the Law?

You may be wondering exactly when a fake account crosses the line from perturbance to an actual crime being committed against you. Well, there are essentially two cases that are generally protected in most states:

  • Online Harassment: This can include actions such as cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and cyberattacks.
  • Defamation: This can include falsifying information about a person that may harm that person's reputation.

Final Thoughts

By the end of this article, you should hopefully know a bit more about how to locate fake Instagram accounts and how to prevent them from continuing to bother you or your child. There are some actions you can take, but they are tricky to navigate. Ultimately, the best thing you can do to prevent people from stealing your likeness on social media is to verify your likeness on these social media platforms.

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