How to combat imposters & why it’s important

Last Updated on: March 22, 2023

How to combat imposters on social media? Is it at all possible? Well, if we don’t try then we make it harder for ourselves!

Before getting on with the topic, did not foresee that, just few days after the previous post, I’d be back hammering on the keyboard about the same topic. Thought I’d said what I wanted to say.

Alas, no.

More impersonators on Instagram

So got a new chat request. Then another one. This time by people who’d gone a bit further creating a believable profile. Maybe stolen the profile of someone else, and replaced images. They usually begin with “Hello”.

Fake accounts can have a (huge) discrepancy between number of followers, and how many they follow. But that in itself is not always enough to identify them. Far from. These accounts had thousands of followers. And the balance between number of followers and the number of followed people seemed more natural.

It takes time to check, time to research. That is a bit annoying. I could have made it simple for myself and just ignored all/any requests, of course. But chose not to. I could also have chosen not to write a word about the experience, let it all slip into oblivion. But I chose to do it. Maybe some good will come out of the effort.

Anyhow, so back onto again. It came back with results I expected. illustration

The result on Clicking one profile was enough.

The image above is how results are presented. If you add more images then the results may change. In the example above I just used one of the images I grabbed from the imposter’s profile. In a previous I uploaded several pictures, and got a higher hit rate (e.g. found more matches).

Who are the most affected?

It’s quite simple really. Most impersonators will not use images and/or profile of (very) famous people. That’s going to be way too easy to reveal and figure out. So instead, at least that’s my impression, they target people who are public figures, or famous, but to a lesser degree. Sorry, no punt intended.

I can easily imagine many thousands, tens of thousands or maybe even hundred of thousands of people worldwide would fit in the category “public figure”. At least on social media. The imposters would choose among these, because their status, number of followers, and number of uploaded images.

Another thing I find is that many of these public figures rely way too much on social media alone. I will return to this later. But in the example above, the believed-to-be original profile also had a LinkedIn profile. So one could ascertain which of the profiles was the original. And Linkedin was not the only source or reference.

But of course, in the vast universe of imposters, impersonators and scammers, even those can be faked.

How to combat imposters, some advice

My somewhat preliminary conclusion is that a lot of those who fit in the category “public figures” rely way too much on social media alone. I’m sure the social media dig this. It drives traffic. Many of them, surprisingly enough, don’t have their own domain, or web page. With relevant content structure, and relevant image titles. Some does, but often heavily outdated, or the link or domain don’t even work.

If you want to combat imposters, or prevent them from taking advantage of you, that’s really a bad strategy.

To protect your identity, owning your own website with sensible, well structured content and ditto images, is not only important. It’s fundamental. Google, and every other search engine will know the material there. In time. If done properly. When someone does a search, or, as example above, if is used, the images are likely to show up.

Yeah I get it, just using what’s around, that is social media, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok etc, is the route of least resistance. No or less work, a low energy effort.

Oh by the way, the reporting tools provided by the social media are, for the most part, so bad that it almost look like they don’t want anyone to report anything.

Combat imposters: get a website!

I don’t know if anyone who fits the category “public figure” (or anyone else) will ever come across an old-school blog post like this. Regardless, here are some advices:

  • Buy your own domain(s). Preferably with your name in it. An acronym or word that can be closely associated to you, your business or your organization, can also work.
    • Personal domain, e.g. surname, is of course very good.
  • Make the website unique, take the time/a little time to think about how, and what, fits your purpose.
    • If it’s not your game, have someone who knows what they’re doing set it up for you. Or get (good) advices.
  • Alternatively, buy a domain and redirect it to your preferred social profile.
    • I would recommend that you have your own website.
  • Mind the content! Well structured, Search engine optimized (SEO) content will much more quickly be acknowledged by Google and search engines.
  • Use SEO titles in your images. Making images searchable is particularly of interest, e.g. firstname-lastname-day.month-year.
    • You don’t need to do this to every picture, but it will help search engines to find them. An it will also help when it comes to authenticity.
  • Embed your social media profiles. While this does not do much for search engine optimization, it will connect your page/site to your preferred domain.
    • So technically, as well as psychologically, and/or to users, this makes the/your website more of a hub, and the social media as spokes. You know, an oaken wheel can have many spokes.
  • The website needs to be maintained and secure. With multiple lines of defense.
  • Spend money on a paid SSL certificate. That way the validation of your domain is one hindered percent. You can use free SSL, but buying one is definitely better. Most web hosting companies will help with both.

Last words, and an analogy

If we are serious about it, e.g. to combat imposters, then it’s individual as well as collective efforts. Securing our own online existence is a vital first step. Reporting imposters and impersonators a second. As I already wrote about in the previous post, in a world of algorithms it’s also about thresholds.

This means that, regardless of your status, an average Joe or Jane (like me), an un-verified public figure, a famous person or something in-between those,  if you are being victimized, get as many as possible to report it.

And as for the above list of advices, well it’s funny, but web, internet, social media and presence, in whatever form, is almost like a Buddhist wheel. Make your own website, your own domain. And let it be the centre of your universe, your hub.

Edit: another few last words

I should have pointed out the obvious. That the scam or imposter syndrome on Instagram extends far beyond the public figure “segment”. Of course. it’s just that the impact is so much higher when someone has a lot of followers.

Actually, it’s a bit sickening. There are a lot of people out there who apparently needs to get a (real) life.

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