Fake Social Media Accounts! Should I Worry?

 

Greetings, SE’ers! Happy New Year! Beem Weeks here with you again. Today, I’m discussing fake social media accounts.

Danger

Recently, I received notice of a new follower on a certain social media platform. Not unusual, as this account is attached to my podcast and publisher. We gain new followers daily. But this new follower stood out among the others. I know the person. I know she had already been a follower of the account. The photo and bio were legit, but the name had subtle misspellings. A quick screen shot and message to the legit person revealed this was not a new account helmed by her. She reported the fraud to the platform in question.

I’ve seen this sort of deception many times over the years. As authors, we tend to become familiar with those who follow our accounts. They may be fellow authors, publishers, podcasters, bloggers, or readers. We have come to rely on them for help in promoting our latest projects. Many even become our friends over the years.

So, what is the end game of such deceit? I suspect there are many reasons people of low (or no) character would take time to create a fake account pretending to be another person.

Hacker using laptop to steal information.

Three or four years ago, I received notice of a new follower. I recognized the name as a fellow author I’ve known for nearly ten years. I thought it odd he only just started following my account, though I didn’t question it. I simply chose to follow back. Immediately, this person sent me a DM. His message claimed he was an American doctor from Atlanta currently stationed with the U. S. Army in Syria. Red flags took flight. The legit person I know is an eighty-something-year-old retiree living in California. He’s not a doctor—nor has he ever been in the military.

I did a quick check of my followers and, sure enough, the real person had already been following me for years. I alerted him of this imposter and shared the phony DM message. Jump ahead a few years and I get another new follower on a different platform. I didn’t recognize the name but chose to follow back. Immediately after I followed, this person dropped into my DM and gave me the very same story, almost word for word (from Atlanta, doctor, in the Army, stationed in Syria). I called this person out. They responded with fake outrage. How dare I accuse them of being anything but legit. This person stood steadfast upon their lie.

This sort of thing happens quite often. I encounter it monthly. I usually reach out to the one being spoofed, share a screen shot, and advise them on how to proceed. Most will report it to the appropriate platform authority and see that the culprit account is vanquished. Some, however, see no harm in the charade.

3d hacker stealing USB flash drive. Isolated

So, should you worry over such deception? In a word, yes. These are not just harmless scallywags having a laugh. If they are approaching others in DMs while masquerading as YOU, there are almost certainly ulterior motives involved. If you’re a writer, you have a brand to protect. I imagine these fraudsters will eventually get around to exploiting ways to take advantage of others once trust has been gained. If there’s criminal intent, they perpetrate it in your name, under your brand. That can be quite damaging to the hard work you’ve invested in building that brand.

I recently read an article in Rolling Stone magazine detailing the decades-long battle funk and R&B musician Bootsy Collins has waged against several fraudsters. These fakes go the extra mile to look and sound just like the bass legend—though none were able to play like him. One such phony took advantage of members of Miles Davis’s band, going so far as to “borrow” money from one. Another rented a hotel room under the original’s name, then skated off, sticking the real deal with the bill. These fakes are now showing up on social media, still pretending to be Mr. Collins, still trying to get free stuff under his name.

What can we do to halt potential harm from such vile sorts? Do a regular search of your handles on the platforms you use. During your search, alter your handle by adding underscores, dashes, periods, or extra letters (@beem @beeem @beemm, @_beem, @be_em, etc.) If you find another account using your photo or avatar, your bio, your links, or your name, report the account immediately. Do a monthly Google search of your brand name. This is a good way to find false accounts on platforms you may not use.

This can apply to anybody—even those who aren’t writers or musicians or bloggers or actors. It happens to the famous and the not-so-famous. It’s somebody pretending to be YOU. This should never be taken lightly. But don’t let it freak you out, either. Don’t let it chase you off social media. Just be vigilant. Be protective of your name, your brand, your identity. It belongs to you!

 

84 thoughts on “Fake Social Media Accounts! Should I Worry?

  1. It amazes me, Beem, how many scammers and fraudsters there are out there, and vigilance is definitely needed. How do those people live with themselves? I do occasional searches of my name on google to see what’s up, but I haven’t tried other spellings. That’s a wise idea. Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Beem I am so sorry that someone is using a fake account to get to you and even worse pretend to be you as Beem the Writer. I really don’t know why these people do this?😕. Anyways, great advice and thanks for alerting us about this

    I think you should report the offender and he or she will be brought to justice and face the law. Why hack an account when you can create one yourself, lack of thinking.

    I once reported my Instagram which got hacked by a guy pretending to be me creating fake posts of these Bitcoin wins such as stating I won thousands when I didn’t. It is better to protect yourself and keep the website on security. These people have the guts to take our own hard worked content

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good advice. I recently started getting requests to follow someone on a platform. As with most, the request would say that I had (n) number of common connections. Ultimately, I traced these all back to one account I connected to without thinking. I deleted 6-8 connections, all linked to each other and none were people I actually knew. You do have to be vigilant.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Normally I do not bother about such things. I get annoyed but rarely do anything about it. Yesterday, I received a friend request from my mother, who died a week ago, her funeral was on Monday and as you can imagine I am still upset about it. They scammed (the right person) at the wrong time. I looked up all the information I could find including IP addresses, cookie creators and found it contained malware, a phishing scam, which you can trace the origins of (Indonesia in this case, Tangerang). Sent it off to the requisite crime agencies. I doubt they will get them, but they will not be using that address anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am sorry to hear of your mother’s passing, Ray. My condolences to you. As for the scammers using her name, that’s just unconscionable. It’s bad enough that they use other people’s names. Adding malware just proves they are evil. This is the very point of keeping an eye on one’s name on social media. I do hope something comes of your report. I am sorry you had to go through this. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am sorry Ray about that. How dare they use your mother like that after the mourning you are going through. I am glad you reported the account

      I also reported my hacked Instagram account last year , I an still upset about that I had to create a new account afresh😕😖

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have twice received an email from someone a supposed friend of mine. I knew, from the content it wasn’t from him. I emailed him to tell him (on his real address) but got no reply. The second time, I emailed again and had a phone call. Neither he nor his wife was the slightest bit bothered. They said when they get such an email, they simply delete it and I should do the same and ignore it. (This I had already done.)
    I tried to explain how I thought that someone using his name for nefarious reasons could be harmful to him, but I think he thought it had no effect on him at all.
    I really don’t know what this person’s objective was/is, but if another friend follows the link it could be harmful to that friend. I could not make my friend see that.
    Thank you for this post. I might just send it to my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Beem, this is a great topic to discuss. I have had numerous requests recently on Facebook from fraudsters using the names and pictures of people I know. I pretty much know who I follow so I always know its a duplicate and decline the request. I message the real deal about the fraudulent request. This is really on the rise currently.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have run into these accounts, and mentioned when I do. I see more on Facebook than anywhere. I rarely respond to any dms unless I know the person. Just post, Beem and reminder to make sure we aren’t at the end of this scam.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve known so many friends whose accounts have been hacked, and I always try to alert them. Luckily, I haven’t been a victim – yet. But now I’m thinking about searching with alternative spellings of my name like you suggested. Thanks for the advice, Beem!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I see this happen all the time, too, Beem. Great advice! A similar thing happened to me several years ago. I was one day late paying for my old domain name, unsure if I wanted to continue since I’d switched to a self-hosted site three years before. When I made the decision to pay for it for one more year, hackers had stolen the domain. They still used my header and name. They even showcased my books for free! But if someone tried to download, they’d steal all their information. The whole situation made me sick. Hard lesson to learn. Since then, I’ve been overprotective of my brand, name, social media, etc.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Very timely and helpful post, Beem! I was the victim of a scammer on FB several years ago. They used my name to contact everyone on my Friends list, pretending to be me and in need of money!!! I ended up closing my FB a/c, and have only just opened a new one a month or so ago. I’m giving it one more try, because it’s an easy way to keep up with friends & family, but I’m very suspicious of some of the men asking to “Friend” me. (Many of whom say they are military and stationed in various countries around the world. I’m too suspicious to accept many requests I haven’t initiated.)

    More recently, someone found a way to order a $1400 phone on my AT&T account! With upgrades to my service, yet! I’ve been in contact with AT&T and we are (hopefully) straightening that out, because I’m sure not paying for it.

    You have to wonder how much good these scammers could do if they put all that energy and plotting into something that made a positive difference in our world.

    Thanks again for today’s reminders and helpful tips. (Saving this post, for sure!)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow! That’s terrible about your AT&T and FB account, Marcia. I’ve seen many of the “military” scammers over the years. I was in a chat with an author friend from England many years ago, when one of those scammers popped up. She was about to send an “American soldier stationed in Moscow” money to visit her England. I had to work to convince her that the U. S. does not have military bases anywhere in Russia. Thankfully, she didn’t send the money. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences, Marcia. This may open the eyes of others as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you’re right, Beem. We have to be SO cautious these days about who we trust, especially online. I hope everyone who reads your post is paying close attention, and will not be taken advantage of. For me, I didn’t even “fall for a ruse.” In both cases, I found out after the fact, and we still don’t know how the guilty person managed to by the phone on my AT&T account. It isn’t all sorted out yet, either, but they at least have all the facts and know I did NOT order that phone, nor upgrade my service. Will likely do a post on the whole experience once it is settled. Again, your post couldn’t be more timely. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Some of my friends on FB have their accounts cloned before and I’ve gotten friend requests from the fake accounts. One even tried to clone my cousin’s husband’s account and I warned them. Even my personal FB account was cloned once and one of my friends on there warned me. It’s ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was in a meeting with Stephen Geez last night when he received a DM from an author we publish. It was from a cloned account. Geez called the author, it wasn’t her, so she’s reporting it to FB. It’s a crazy world online. If there’s an angle to be found, criminals will exploit it. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Jeanne.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Long before the days of social media, I worked in banking. I was amazed at the number of fraud scams that existed back then. Always to get money, of course. I constantly receive emails saying I’ve won $$$ and to please contact… I don’t open them, of course, but the idiots never give up.

    I’m constantly followed by someone on Instagram claiming to be Keanu Reeves. I think this person must have at least 100 fake Keanu accounts. And the accounts where someone claims to be in the military or is a doctor. I ignore them and, depending on the situation, sometimes block them.

    Very informative post Beem. A lot of people don’t realize how disastrous some of these fake accounts can be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I get the emails every day, Joan. They fall into the spam folder. Usually with an email address like Amazon@zzxsedgsh5534$$jjm.com, telling me I won this or that. Or that my recent order was sent to the wrong address, please send them a correct address. I delete without opening. I’ve seen the Keanu accounts out there. Crazy. You are correct. Fake accounts can become disastrous if left alone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent post, Beem. Thank you for the helpful advice as to what action to take. I’ve been hacked by such schemes, and because of that, I’m rarely on Facebook. When I look at Tweetsmap I’m stunned by the number of fake accounts. We all have to be vigilant.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m only on Twitter now besides my blog, but I take your advice to heart about running regular checks for ANY platform, whether I’m on it or not. I’ll have to start doing searches. I always check out every profile of each Twitter account that makes a follow request to me … the same on Goodreads … and as soon as I get an in appropriate DM or unsolicited sales pitch via DM, I unfollow. Thanks for pointing this out and for the great advice. This whole thing saddens me immensely. It’s the same with sites offering illegal downloads of my books, and I just cannot keep on top of all of those. At last check, there were hundreds. I used to use an online tool to report those and seek removal, but that platform didn’t last long. Sigh. Sometimes, it makes me feel like giving up. Thanks for sharing, Beem. Much appreciated 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • The internet has shrank the world, Harmony. All of those thieves hiding in the shadows in the bad part of town are now on our computers. Don’t give up. That’s what they want. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This is such a good and timely reminder, Beem. I was recently contacted by a Facebook friend alerting me to a fake account that’d sent him a friend request. He reported it as a fake account, then notified me. It astounds me that we must be vigilant, but we do. My sister recently got hit with a new email scam. The email supposedly came from a fellow author saying she’d been locked out of her Amazon account and could my sister please send a hundred-dollar gift card to someone for her, and she’d reimburse her immediately. Of course, when my sister contacted the author, it wasn’t real, and the author who was the victim was appalled. So, you never know how these criminals are going to attack next. Thank you for this reminder and nudge to stay alert and aware!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. This is great advice, Beem. I have Google alerts set under my name, so I’m flagged when something shows up online, but it make sense to do random searches, too. And I love your advice about searching platforms you use and altering the spelling of your name. I’m definitely going to test that one out. Thanks for the great information!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a good practice, Paula. I’m not on FB these days, but when I was, if I didn’t know the person, their friend request was immediately deleted. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

      Like

  17. I’m frequently on the receiving end of friend requests. When there’s a mention of my lovely smile, I don’t respond in any way – but perhaps I should inform AOl regardless. When it sounds more plausible, I do a search and the military/medical/philanthropic good-looker is as far as I need to go. Again, I don’t often report these – but perhaps I should. Not so long ago, someone hacked my account and sent friend requests in my name. Fortunately, several media-savvy contacts let me know very quickly and I reported the situation. It wasn’t easy to report it as I found the aol system hard to navigate. This is such an important topic, Beem. The ONLY reason someone could have for masquerading as others is for criminal intent and so I perhaps should report those lovely George Clooney look-alikes every time, too. Your last bit about doing a search under variations of your own name is one of the most useful suggestions I’ve come across – many, many thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I used to add anyone who asked to my Facebook friends but stopped a few years ago. My thoughts in the beginning were, I’m an author looking for readers, many of who I will never really know personally.

    Now I try to thoroughly research that person by going to their page and looking at their previous posts. However, the same tools that allow us our privacy also hinder our ability to find if a person is legit or not. Doctors and military backgrounds are strong red flags though.

    If I get a request from someone familiar to me, I first check to see if we’re already friends. If we are, I contact them.

    If it’s someone I don’t know, we have to have at least 300 friends in common. It used to be much less, but I have a huge list now.

    On another similar note, theirs a cell phone scam perpetrated through social media. For example, if you’re selling something or wanting to buy something, they will send you a text with a code and ask you to send them the code back. When you do, they have your number and duplicate it to use for scams through I think it’s called Google voice.

    It’s a crazy world out there.

    Liked by 5 people

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