How One Woman Is Cracking Down On Social Media Fraud
It was her friends who first informed her about the fake accounts.
When Shaikha Dr. Noora bint Khalifa Al Khalifa of Bahrain found out there were social media profiles impersonating her on Instagram and Facebook, she thought the problem was a one-off issue.
“I reported the fake accounts, but I didn’t take any serious action when they were first spreading,” the Shaikha said. And spreading they were.
Hundreds of profiles were create in Shaikha Dr. Noora Al Khalifa's name.
Throughout the past few months, over 350 fake profiles were created on both Instagram and Facebook, all claiming to be Shaikha Dr. Noora herself – while the real Shaikha Dr. Noora worked tirelessly to shut them all down.
These fake accounts – and the fraudsters behind them – were clearly no joke.
She soon discovered her identity was being used by members of organized crime groups in Jordan and Egypt, located primarily in refugee camps. Some impersonators posed as the Shaikha, while others claimed they were an “Arab princess” in need of help.
The criminals had a plan to con innocent people out of money - and, by the vast amounts of accounts they had created with the Shaikha’s pictures, they were succeeding.
"They thought they were helping out charities."
Some users were handing over hundreds of Bahraini dollars, to what they thought were charitable causes or investment schemes endorsed by the Bahraini royal.
It was clearly much worse than she had originally anticipated.
“It was people I didn’t personally know who were victimized. They thought they were helping out charities,” Shaikha Noora said.
“These accounts presented themselves as raising money for philanthropic causes. No one was aware they were fake until after they found out through my official media channels.”
It's happening everywhere in the world.
The saddest part of this story is that this isn’t anything new. Scams like this have been happening for years and the issue isn't isolated to the GCC region.
“The entire fake account fraud started more than 10 years ago, misusing photographs of Gulf royals,” Shaikha Noora said to GDN Online in a recent interview.
“The targets of this network of fraudsters are poor people, or those less educated, who fall for this trap and pay anywhere between BD200 to BD500.”
“I was doing research and I noticed many artists, influencers, other members of royal families and politicians [around the world] have similar issues,” she said to ITP Live. “Maybe they don’t know it’s going on . . . but it’s a global issue. I think it’s a must to spread awareness throughout the media, so people have knowledge about these scams.”
So... What are Facebook and Instagram Doing To Stop It?
The Shaikha has been shutting down an average of 20 fake accounts per day. She’s quick to note that Facebook and Instagram have been very efficient in cracking down on the con accounts.
“They helped by closing all the fake accounts, once I reported it. It only took them one day. I would like to thank them for their positive and fast response, and their efforts to keep the social media environment healthy for all users,” she said.
“The safety of our community is absolutely critical to us. As soon as an incident is reported to us, we take the appropriate action to remove impersonators,” a Facebook spokesperson said to ITP Live.
“We are committed to safeguarding the integrity of our services, and we also urge people to continue to use our reporting tools to flag content they suspect may be illegal or violate our community standards.”
What can influencers do to protect themselves (and their audience) from fraudsters?
Plenty of influencers have had their images (and identities) used without their consent online. And it isn't just a case of reposting someone's Instagram picture and forgetting to tag their handle.
Shaikha Noora advises influencers to closely monitor social media for con artists that may try to use their profile (and images) for fraudulent or criminal activities.
Report any accounts that may be impersonating you to Facebook or Instagram. They take it very seriously and are usually able to shut down false accounts within a matter of days.
To report a fake account to Instagram, follow the instructions on this page. You'll need to provide some requested information, including a photo of your government-issued ID. You can also report it directly in the app or fill out a form if you don't have an Instagram account.
To report a fake account on Facebook, follow the instructions on this page. You will first need to determine whether you're reporting a profile or a Page. Then, log into Facebook and go directly to the offending profile/Page. If you want to report an imposter Page of a public figure, follow the instructions here.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever had an account impersonate you? Let us know in the comments below.