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Have identity-stealing spambots hacked your Instagram account?

Bethany Ramos is an editor, blogger, and chick lit author. Bethany works as Editor in Chief for Naturally Healthy Publications.

What to do when you see your face on a stolen Instagram account

If you take a moment to trace your online identity, you may not like what you find. Profiles on the popular image-sharing social media site Instagram may be vulnerable to spambots replicating and selling user accounts.

Yes, spambots on Instagram want to steal your identity, and here's how it works. Instagram spambots have figured out how to avert on-site spam filters without detection. These new spambots are creating brand-new user accounts that replicate actual Instagram usernames, images and photo captions.

These impostor accounts are hard to detect with the naked eye — until you take a closer look. Why are spambots going to all this trouble? What do they have to gain by duplicating an existing user's Instagram account?

Business Insider explains, "It's likely that these spam accounts are part of a black market for people that pay for fake followers. It's a trend that occurs across social media platforms: Users pay for followers for any number of reasons — to make themselves look more credible, perhaps, or just to make their 'cool ratio' more favorable."

You are being used and exploited by spambots on Instagram, and you may not even know it. One of the first warning signs of this spam infiltration is likely to be the re-tagging of a friend through the duplicate spam account. Your friend may ask you why they were tagged twice, when they were actually tagged once by you and once by the spambot impostor. If you know what to look for, it is easy to put the pieces together.

These spambots may be stealthy, but they really aren't that smart. Spambot copycats normally follow thousands of users with very few followers of their own. Spammers take the easy way out by mimicking thousands of existing Instagram accounts to grow followers and likes, thus increasing their sale value.

What's your face worth on the Instagram black market? The Verge estimates that, "Fake Instagram followers can be bought in bulk. Prices range from $3 per 100 to $3 per 1,000, depending on the source. There is a similar market for Instagram likes."

It is unsettling to think that every picture, caption and tag you post could be used for profit. But no need to shut down your account just yet. Take this warning to heart, and keep your eyes open. If you find a duplicate account, then take action. Instagram will require a copy of your government ID to prove your identity to shut the copycat account down.

If you want to reduce your social media footprint altogether, then there's always door number two: Set your Instagram profile to "Private," and spambots can't see you.

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