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Fake social media pages are on the rise: What to do if you find one

A TODAY investigation found that one travel blogger's account was spoofed 16 times on Instagram and eight times on Facebook.
/ Source: TODAY

The popularity of fake social media accounts is on the rise, with imposter accounts popping up for celebrities, influencers, brands and even for friends. You might've seen some of these imposter accounts come through your direct messages or across your social media feeds.

The goal? To access your personal information, like credit card numbers, your name, phone number and other data they can use to steal money. These accounts often offer discounts and giveaways, seemingly coming directly from the brands, but both the accounts and the offers are fake. Imposter accounts often take photos from the page they're spoofing, create a similar name and reach out to followers of the actual page.

Last year, the Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded over 28,000 complaints related to spoofing with losses totaling approximately $216 million, TODAY reported.

Social media platforms are beginning to crack down on fake profiles. So far in 2021, Facebook has taken down nearly 1.3 billion fake accounts, Robert Traynham, head of public affairs at Facebook, told TODAY.

Still, fake profiles pop up seemingly all the time. To protect yourself, when you get a new friend request or direct message, it's important to vet it. For example, Facebook recommends:

  • Comparing your shared connections and who their friends are on the platform
  • Making sure you’re not already friends with a similar, existing account
  • Checking that the account requesting you has recent posts
  • For any celebrity or popular company, looking for a blue checkmark to ensure it's a verified profile

Both Facebook and Instagram recommend reporting any fake profiles through the app or filling out one of their designated forms.

On Facebook, you can report a fake account by:

  • Going to its page and clicking the button with three dots at the bottom of the cover photo
  • If you're reporting a fake account for a person, click "Find Support or Report Profile." For a fake company page, click "Find Support or Report Page."
  • Then follow the on-screen instructions to file a report.
  • You also file a report directly at or through Facebook Messenger by scrolling down and tapping, "Something's Wrong."

Instagram, meanwhile, encourages the person who's being impersonated or their representative, such as a parent, to report the account. You fill out one form if you have an account and another if you don't. You must provide all the requested info, including a photo of your government-issue ID. All reports are anonymous, according to the company.

The FBI also has a complaint form for victims of internet crimes. Your best chance of getting your money back is to report the incident right away.