Sunday afternoon, I got a weird query from a friend: “Did you message me on Instagram?” Of course I had not–I don’t use Instagram messaging at all, because I already have too many messaging apps to juggle and certainly don’t need any more owned by Facebook.
But as seen in the screengrab my friend sent along, the sender had the same profile photo and name as me, with only one letter added to their handle: robtpegoraro instead of robpegoraro. And, insultingly enough, far more followers–995, not the 380 I have in reality, even though the account was set to private. The generic mundanity of the faker’s message–“How are you doing?”–also offended me.
Then another friend asked the same question, describing the same fake account and citing the same weirdly vague queries.
I asked both friends to report the fake account and then tried to do the same myself–except Instagram reported no such account when I searched in its apps on my phone and iPad, even though I had no problem seeing the account in a browser logged out of my Insta account. I’m assuming that the impostor blocked me preemptively, a harassment-coverup tactic I’ve had people describe to me before.
Juggling multiple chores on a busy Monday, I followed what I thought were the right instructions to report a problem with a profile–except that Insta has separate instructions for dealing with impersonation accounts, which require me to send in a selfie that includes a government-issued ID. In any case, that first report seems to have vanished down the bit bucket, as an attempt to check the status of my report led to the Insta app on my phone telling me “You haven’t reported anything.”
I have since filed the correct report, and now that I’ve coughed up a photo of my driver’s license, I might as well request the verification badge that I’d put off getting when that would have required me to upload a photo of a government ID that Insta had never required before. Except that seeing Instagram’s apathetic response–seriously, it’s not obvious enough when a fraudster copies my profile photo and grabs a username only one character different from the one I’ve had since 2012?–makes me want to spend less time in this app, not more.
Update, 10/20/2022: My report yielded an e-mail from a Facebook address with a randomized username consisting of “instagram++” followed by 14 characters of alphanumeric randomness that addressed me as “Hi IG” and then asked me to reply with a selfie of myself holding a government ID. I did that and got a second such e-mail with the same request. This is some of the most incompetent customer support I’ve ever seen, and IG being free is no excuse for making it so hard to report a basic violation of its terms of service.