Compers know fully well that comping via social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook can be a problem, especially when it comes to fake accounts. Scammers latch on to a brand name, create a similar looking account and then send private messages which at first glance look like they’re from the actual brand. These messages may ask the recepient to click a link, sign up for an offer, send in their details or even ask for bank details.
Loquax’s Instagram Cloned
This week we’ve had our own taste of fake accounts. A couple of days ago we were notified that DMs from a fake Loquax Instagram were being sent out. These fake messages start off with “Hello, Congratulations.!! Chosen as the winner of Loquax”. We know our English can be a little bit ropey at times but even so it’s not that bad. The message goes on to say we’re having a giveaway and encourages the user to follow a link. The link then takes you to an awful Google sites page which then requests you to follow another link to an awful deal page.
Fake Winning DMs
What makes the whole process a little more convincing is the scam page has stolen the Loquax Instagram page and slightly adjusted the username. Our username is loquaxuk whilst the scam page has opted for loquaxuk_. If you’re not on your game then you may not have seen the underscore! After the initial notification of the problem we started to get more messages and quickly put out notices on our social media pages for users to be wary. Hopefully no one did fall for the scam page or went on to sign up anywhere.
Reporting The Problem
Once we’d highlighted the problem page to users we then turned our attention to getting the page removed on Instagram. We click on ‘Report User’ via the page’s profile then chose ‘Report Account’. The choices include “It’s pretending to be someone else” and this then gave us options for ‘Me’, ‘Someone I Know’, ‘A celebrity or public figure’ and ‘a business or organization’. Loquax is a business so surely that’s the best option? No! Only verified accounts can be reported via that option. So reporting via ‘Me’ from our loquaxuk account would be best?
Doesn’t Go Against Community Guidelines
We were pleased to receive quite a quick response from Instagram – albeit automated. The response wasn’t good as “our technology has found that the account probably doesn’t go against our Community Guidelines”. So cloning an account and randomly DMing people fake messages claiming to be from a company doesn’t go against Instagram’s guidelines? That seems a little bit wrong! We have reported the account again and are now waiting to see how long it takes for Instagram to actually remove it. Additionally we’ve asked users to report the fake account.
Infringement Of Intellectual Property
Whilst waiting for Instagram to move their backsides we also started to look at other options. After all surely there must be a better way of stamping our fake accounts once they’ve been reported? There is a form available which you can fill in if you’ve been impersonated. But trying to fill it in as a business entity just tells you to complete a form on intellectual property rights. Fortunately ‘Loquax’ is our trademark and so that form has gone in too. However we do wonder what other businesses have to do if their accounts are impersonated but they don’t have trademarks to fall back on? It does seem that Instagram’s processes for dealing with fakes does need a serious overhaul.
Reporting The Scammer
But what about the scammer? Well first we checked out TinyURL but couldn’t find anyway of stopping the link. We’ve sent a message via a support page but think that’s more aimed at sales. So we moved on to Google and the scam landing page has subsquently been reported. Whether they shut down the page remains to be seen but judging by this thread on Google Support Halaman Muka scam pages do seem to get removed. Unfortunately it does seem the scammer just moves on to another option. Maybe we’d have more joy by looking at the destination page?
Blogspot, WatchTVDeal, Centralprize
The initial link from the Google page redirects via a blogspot account downloadyourfile23, so we’ve reported that! The redirect from there then takes us to a site called watchtvdeal.com. We know it’s an affiliate link as the landing page link contains “aff_id=31229” and “&aff_sub=443”. Now we’re not in the slightest fussed about reporting rogue affiliates but frustratingly the contact pages for watchtvdeal and it’s sister site centralprize.com don’t work. So our next step in this process is to find out if the link being used is via a network and if so which one. We’re now looking into this and will report back.
Solving The Problems
Could all this be avoided? Firstly Instagram could introduce better verification for business accounts. That would help users identify genuine accounts over fake ones. Instagram could also improve their processes for reporting fake accounts. The underscore account is still adding new followers as we write – 48 hours on – and that can’t be right! The platform could also stop mass DMing of followers, ban cloaked URLs etc. Google obviously have seen similar landing pages as to the one created in this case. Why are the scammers still allowed to create new ones? And affiliate accounts must know where leads are coming from so why are they not doing better work in verifying their partners and identifying scammers?
Keep An Eye Out For Updates
We’ll be updating this blog as and when anything changes. Our aim initially is to have the fake account removed from Instagram and it’ll be interesting to see just how difficult and how long that process actually takes. After that we’ll be looking to find out about the affiliate who is doing the scam, seeing if we can find which networks they’re using for programs and getting their revenue streams removed. If your company has been effected by a fake account on Instagram then do let us know via the comments.
First Update 23/6 – TinyURL 1 Scammers 0
Fair play to TinyURL who have deactivated the url being used by the scammer. This was all done relatively quickly via email and big kudos to the guys at TinyURL for getting that sorted. For other companies who are having issues doing this kind of thing is a useful option to consider. By reporting violations of service you can limit a scammer’s activities – and potentially any income – whilst you wait for the likes of Instagram to get their fake accounts removed.
Second Update 24/6 – Loquax 1 Scammers 0
After three days online Instagram have now removed the fake account. We received a reply from the Trademark department: “this channel is only for reporting intellectual property infringement, such as copyright or trademark. However, the content was removed because it violated our Community Guidelines”. On the plus side the content is gone however we were filing a trademark complaint to the trademark department so the reply is a bit odd. It’s also odd that they can see the fake page violated the guidelines but process via ‘report account’ was useless. So the scammer’s link has gone and the account has gone. Just Google, Blogspot and an affiliate platform to work on.