Fake Instagram accounts are violating women’s privacy, and I was a victim


It’s not just unflattering to have a fake porn scam linked to your name – it’s a criminal offence.

Scrolling through your Instagram lately, you may have noticed a rise in the number of stories that display screenshots of impersonated accounts, with very hurried captions like ‘Please report this account! It’s not me!’ sprawled over the top. Almost every other day, one of my friends or a large influencer is having their account cloned.

The go-to formula for an impersonated account involves three key features. Firstly, the name of the account is very similar to the profile it is impersonating, so that the change is hardly recognisable to the untrained eye. Secondly, the new account is, without fail, always a collection of the ‘hottest’ photos they could pluck from the original account.

Want to read more about how others navigate the world? Try our Life section.

Think bikini pics, red lips and activewear. Not an aesthetically pleasing bedside table or croissant in sight. Finally, the cherry on top is the bio – normally a direct copy of the original, but with a fake, OnlyFans-like subscription website link and the addition of a few water squirt emojis tacked on the end, for effect. 

I never used to think much about the impact these fake accounts had on the women I follow (and I say women because most of the time, women are the targets of such attacks) until I fell victim to one myself. My fake account popped up one Wednesday evening after I received a notification that someone was trying to log into my account.

The next thing I knew, there was a new @magenta.porter on the block, and she was not only a freelance writer, but she also sold used undergarments, “free shower tease” clips, and more! A woman of many talents if I don’t say so myself.

I would like to point out that using subscription services like OnlyFans, if you choose to, is awesome and I have nothing against it in the slightest. What I do have an issue with, however, is the use of women’s bodies without consent, by hackers and bots in faraway lands to make a quick buck. It’s identity fraud.

When my fake account popped up, my male friends (because of course, the new account only follows what they assume to be cis, straight men), instantly brought it to my attention. At first, I was utterly shocked that this would happen to ME of all people because frankly, I would not consider my Instagram remotely saucy or ‘hot girl summer’ enough to be a target.

After the initial shock, I started to freak out a little. Despite the ‘badge of honour’ that most of my friends placed on the situation, I did not view it as such. I started to panic and several alarm bells went off in my mind. What if my boss sees this and thinks I’ve quit my (very new) day job to moonlight on a porn platform?

What if one of my family members, namely, my 85-year-old Nanny, sees this? (Sidenote: yes my Nanny is on Instagram, yes she is cooler than your Nanny). What if people actually think that this is me – and yes, before you ask, some men I know did ‘accidentally’ start following the page. 

After a very alarming call came through from my dad, I realised that above all I felt violated by the experience. Having to contact a website based halfway across the world via email and ask them to immediately remove the fake porn profile was not easy. What was even harder was getting Instagram to delete the account – despite so many people reporting it for me, it still took more than two weeks for the account to be taken down. 

What followed, after I calmed down and started to reflect on the situation, was anger. Despite many of my friends telling me to laugh the situation off and to view it as ‘flattering,’ I’m still filled with fury as a write about it a month on. Why? Because it’s expected, in fact, normalised, for this to just be another thing that women have to deal with.

The experience threw me right back to a year seven ‘online stranger danger’ lecture and made me question not only my online safety but my self as a woman. Was I posting too many sexy photos on Instagram? Should I put my account back on private? Should I be embarrassed about this? Is this my fault? Did I ask for it? I’m angry that something like this even led me down this anti-feminist thought path. Similar to being cat-called by a car full of men, I hate that I even began trying to potentially blame myself for this. 

I’ll admit, I did put my account on private for a while. I also archived a lot of the more ‘risqué’ photos I had, and by risqué I mean the ones of my 19-year-old self smiling, sitting cross-legged, at Bondi beach, not looking remotely sexy in the slightest. Am I mad at myself for feeling as though I had to do this for my own protection? Yes. Do I think you, dear reader, should do the same? Absolutely not. 

I know that that I do not and should not have to apologise for showing and embracing my body online. I detest the way this experience has made me question this, even for a second. If anything, the experience has hit me with a swift dose of reality. It’s reminded me that the internet is a very big, very dark, scary place and that unfortunately, you never really know who is watching. 

Next time you see one of these fake accounts, report it instantly. Don’t follow it, or worse, click on the link. Every follow, every link click, only fuels this online epidemic. Researching the issue further, if this happens to you I encourage you to report it to the police, as the unauthorised use of your personal information and image is a criminal offence. 

At the time, I didn’t realise the weight of the situation because I’ve been so desensitised to this kind of attack, due to the frequency of it happening on social media. The advice I would give to myself in hindsight, and that I will give to anyone that this happens to in the future, is to take it seriously. This is a crime punishable by imprisonment after all, and we cannot let it be just another ‘thing’ that women are expected to deal with. 

For more on what to do when someone clones your Instagram account, head here.

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