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Instagram has grown from a niche photo-sharing platform into one of the most popular social media platforms, with over 2 billion monthly active users in 2021.
With the popularity of the platform, many businesses are now looking at Instagram as their primary online marketing channel: it’s the place where they work with influencers to promote their product, get user-generated reviews, and more.
Yet, it’s quite obvious that the fact that there are many businesses being active on Instagram also invites many bad actors looking to take advantage of the situation.
While Instagram has been very active in combating cybercriminals and scammers on the platform, unfortunately, it’s still not good enough. There are still many fake accounts impersonating famous people and well-known brands, and bad actors can then use these fake accounts to:
So, if you are a legitimate brand and your brand identity is assumed by a fake account, what can you do about it?
In this guide, we will explore your options, especially how to take down these fake Instagram accounts via reporting.
Let us begin.
Is creating a fake Instagram account impersonating another person or organization legal? The short answer is no, it’s illegal, and if you are a registered trademark owner, Instagram is obligated to follow the U.S. federal trademark laws and potentially other relevant trademark laws in your location.
This simply means trademark infringement is strictly prohibited on Instagram, so if you found your brand being impersonated by others (so technically, they have stolen your trademark), you have the right to report this account, and Instagram is obligated to take action.
Instagram also adheres to the common law trademark rights, so it can ban accounts that perform infringements on unregistered trademarks, potentially including individual identity.
So, even if you haven’t or can’t register your trademark yet (i.e., you can’t register an individual name unless you are already famous), you can still take action against these fake accounts impersonating your identity.
Due to the visual nature of Instagram, trademark infringements can happen in a wide variety of different ways: logos, brand names, product design, and so on.
Here are some examples of acts on Instagram that may be considered legal trademark infringement:
According to the most recent studies there are around 2 billion active Instagram accounts. It is no surprise then that it is a difficult task to find one or two accounts who may be using your logo, name, or brand image. Nevertheless, there are a few methods you can use to spot fake Instagram accounts:
The first (and the easiest) thing to do is search for your name or brand’s name on Instagram. Try searching for phrase variations, typos (i.e., Gogle instead of Google), and so on. Instagram will then show the search result listing all the accounts using your brand name.
Try reviewing these accounts one by one. Remember an account with a name that is similar or the same as your brand name has not necessarily been created with malicious intent to impersonate you. You can also evaluate other factors, like the content they are posting (i.e., if they are copying your feeds, you can bet it’s a blatant impersonation), where they claim they are located, interactions with others, and so on.
Additionally, keep in mind that accounts created with malicious intent tend to block the legitimate brand. Therefore you may need to try using another account (i.e., your personal account) to perform the search.
Leverage Instagram’s search algorithm. Try using hashtags in your search to find fake Instagram accounts. This is especially effective when the fake account is using the account to sell products because, typically, they’ll use product-specific hashtags.
However, you’ll need to be creative and meticulous when using this approach since, in practice, branded/product-specific hashtags are also used by legitimate consumers, resellers, and vendors. This approach can be very effective when done right but it is also bound to be very time-consuming and dull.
Perform a reverse image search (i.e., via Google Images) to check whether there are accounts that posted your photos or photos of your product/logo on Instagram. As with searching via hashtags, this process can also be time-consuming.
1. By using your desktop/web app
Step 1: Open your computer browser and then type https://help.instagram.com/contact/636276399721841 on the address bar.
Step 2: you’ll be given several options to describe your situation. Since you are reporting a fake account, you can choose the option “Someone created an account pretending to be someone I represent).
Step 3: fill out your information on the given form. Even if you are reporting an account abuse for your sild, fill out the form with your own name and personal details.
Step 4: You’ll need to specify your relationship to the person being impersonated. If you are reporting your own Instagram account, then you can click on “The Instagram username of the person being impersonated.” Alternatively, you can choose other options like “Authorized representative” depending on your business’s type and other factors.
Step 5: You’ll need to submit information about the fake account. In the “The full name listed on the account that you’re reporting” field, type the name used as the profile’s name in its bio and not the username. Input the username in the next field.
Step 6: You’ll need to take a photo of yourself holding up an accepted ID. You can use any form of government ID here: passport, visa, driver’s license, and even birth certificate, among others. If you don’t have a government ID, you can hold up two IDs like a school ID card and a bank statement. Check the full list of accepted ID forms here. Make sure that both your face and the ID are visible in the photo. Once you’re done, click “Choose Files” and upload the photo.
Step 7: Click Send and submit your report.
Voila, you’ve successfully submitted your complaint form. Instagram will review your submission and may contact you if they require more information. Instagram usually replies within 24 to 48 hours via email and will delete the fake account if your request if approved.
2. By using a mobile app
Note: it’s typically more effective to submit the form via the web/desktop app, and you can’t provide any proof via the mobile app. However, the process is easier and faster when using a mobile app.
Step 1: Go to the fake profile/account that impersonates you or your brand.
Step 2: Tap the three dots at the top-right and choose “Report,” you’ll be provided with several options. Click on “Report Account.”
Step 3: On the next set of options, tap “It’s pretending to be someone else”.
Step 4: Choose who the account is impersonating. You can select “a business or organization” if the account is currently impersonating your brand.
Step 5: Tap “Submit Report”
As you can see, you won’t be able to provide any proof, and you can’t specify who the account is impersonating when you are reporting from the mobile app, but the process is much easier. You can, however, use this option to submit a quick report, and you may follow up with another report from your desktop/web app later.
However, a mobile report can still be effective, and Instagram may disable the fake account if they are able to gather enough findings.
If your brand owns a legitimate Instagram Business page, then reporting the fake profile and getting it taken down is much easier. You can use the Instagram trademark infringement form to report the fake account using your trademarks.
You’ll need to provide proof of ownership and prepare the required documents to prove that your registered trademarks have been infringed. Having screenshots and other proof showing the account infringing your trademarks may also help.
Typically you’ll be required to submit a copy of your registration certificate that is able to prove ownership of the business/brand name that’s being used by the bad actor on the fake account.
Once you’ve submitted this proof of ownership and other relevant proof, Instagram will review the report to determine whether or not a trademark infringement has occurred. This report will serve as your official DMCA takedown request, and once it’s approved, Instagram will ensure the account is taken down, and all content is removed.
If you submit the Instagram trademark infringement form and don’t hear any response after 48 hours, don’t panic. First things first, try resubmitting the form. There’s always the possibility of technical errors, and so your form is not received. If there’s any change to the situation, you may also want to update the information first before resubmitting the form.
If the second form is ignored again, then you can try emailing Instagram’s support team. There may be underlying circumstances causing this delay, for example, if the support team requires more time to evaluate whether the infringement actually occurred. The support team may also ask for further information and proof before they can approve the report.
Can you find out who made the fake account and take the necessary action?
Unfortunately, this can be quite challenging to do since Instagram will not reveal the identity of the bad actor for privacy purposes. Instagram also will not give you access to the fake account even after it’s taken down.
So, you’ll need to be proactive and take things on your own. Here are some tips you can use to find the culprit behind the fake account:
If the impersonation attempt has caused you any kind of financial loss or otherwise, it might be worth it to pursue the real culprit and take legal action. Red Points can help provide the data needed to file an official complaint in the event of legal disputes.
While Instagram has its own manual reporting system, going through hundreds of Instagram accounts looking for possible impersonators is not a practical use of time for busy executives. This is where Red Points can help.
Red Points is a Revenue Recovery platform that can accomplish this tiresome task with ease through smart, automated software. Red Points’ tools and teams help to ensure that businesses can recover revenue lost to scammers and impersonators on social media sites like Instagram. Here’s how we do it:
By conducting 24/7 bot-powered searches on Instagram, Red Points locates scammers who might be infringing your intellectual property with fake Instagram accounts and content.
This monitoring and detecting system is supported by image recognition, machine learning and keyword searches based on your previously submitted intellectual property registrations (like trademark, copyright, patent, etc). With these methods Red Points’ can then isolate, discard or validate fake Instagram accounts.
Instagram is among many of the social media sites targeted by scammers. It’s impractical and inefficient to manually check thousands of Instagram accounts to detect bad actors. Instead Red Points’ automated tools allow you to set prioritization rules to validate high risk infringements first, tackling the most damaging and persistent fake Instagram accounts.
As soon as these fake accounts start appearing on Instagram, Red Points’ automated system will kick into action. Red Points’ Impersonation Protection Software reviews suspicious accounts and applies automatic takedowns based on your own pre-established rules, like price range, stock, platform, etc.
You can also manually assess infringements that fall outside the scope of your rules. This in turn will teach Red Points’ software via machine learning how to respond to similar cases in the future.
Following enforcement, Red Points allows users to understand and assess the overall economic impact of reporting bogus Instagram accounts. You can view the amount of revenue you have recovered and get specific information such as amount of incidents per asset. Ultimately, this will help you understand the true economic value of pursuing, reporting and taking down fake Instagram accounts.
Lastly, you’ll be able access custom reports packed full of relevant data related to the scammers and the incidents, and request specific information that goes from number of enforcements done by infringement type to average days from notification to takedown.
With the online dominance of social media platforms like Instagram and the worrying growth of cybercrimes, protecting your brand identity has to be a priority. If you use Instagram to grow your business and sell your products, it is vital to know how to spot a fake account, how to close an Instagram account by reporting and how to take down an Instagram account by alternative means. At Red Points, we offer sophisticated Brand Protection Software to ensure that you can find, track and report Instagram accounts that are stealing your IP. If you want to protect brand identity on social media and deal with trademark infringement through an automated solution, talk to one of our experts now to see how it works for you.