Dealing with fake profiles

Fake social media accounts are often set up to do harm to individuals. These accounts are used to 1) hide the identity of the individual while they send bullying or threatening messages; 2) impersonate their victim to try and damage their reputation or cause them distress or 3) trick their friends and family into connecting with a profile impersonating the victim to trick them into engaging with malicious content.

This is a very common form of cyberbullying that can cause serious distress to the victim and have an impact on their online reputation. It is important to take the right action as soon as possible.

Approaches to dealing with fake profiles

  1. Report the account - Almost all social media platforms have a process in place for fake profiles and for profiles impersonating someone. Follow the process on each platform and the provider will investigate the account and (if found to be fake) remove the profile and its content. Use these links to report fake profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram.

  2. Keep a copy of the evidence - It’s important to keep information about the fake profile through taking screenshots or printing out the profile pages. This may be useful if the issue continues and you need to work with the platform or the police to resolve the issue.

  3. Try not to monitor the content online and resulting comments - While the information is online try not to monitor the comments and feedback. This will cause more distress.

  4. The information is now public - As hard as it is to deal with the information shared in the fake profile is public. Get the help and support you need to come to terms with this information being in the public domain.

If you are being bullied

  • Know it is not your fault - Nobody deserves to be bullied. Somebody being repeatedly cruel to you is a result of the bullies own personal issues. Know that it is not your fault.

  • Reach out for help - Especially if the behaviour’s really getting to you. You deserve backup. See if there’s someone who can listen, help you process what’s going on and work through it – a friend, relative or maybe an adult you trust.

  • Don’t respond or retaliate - Sometimes a reaction is exactly what aggressors are looking for because they think it gives them power over you, and you don’t want to empower a bully. As for retaliating, getting back at a bully turns you into one – and can turn one mean act into a chain reaction. If you can, remove yourself from the situation. If you can’t, sometimes humour disarms or distracts a person from bullying.

  • Tell the person to stop - This is completely up to you – don’t do it if you don’t feel totally comfortable doing it, because you need to make your position completely clear that you will not stand for this treatment any more. You may need to practice beforehand with someone you trust, like a parent or good friend.

  • Use the tools you have available - Most social media apps and services allow you to block the person. Whether the harassment is in an app, texting, comments or tagged photos, do yourself a favour and block the person. You can also report the problem to the service. That probably won’t end it, but you don’t need the harassment in your face, and you’ll be less tempted to respond.

Advice for parents & carers

Each case of cyber bullying is different and all should be taken seriously. The following advice may help:

  • Let them talk - Give them the space to share what they want to in their way and listen. Try to avoid the temptation to interrupt because you know what’s going on, prompt if necessary but let them do most of the talking. If there’s one sure way to put a child off seeking help, it’s making them feel embarrassed or ashamed about why they’re asking for help. Times change and some of the things young people do today may make us cringe sometimes, but the inherent behaviour is the same as it was when we were their age.

  • Don’t deny access to technology - When we speak to young people about barriers to getting help they often share that they are worried that their device may be taken away from them. Reassure them that this won’t happen if they speak up about something that has been worrying them online.

  • Talk to their school - Schools play a vital role in the resolution of abusive online behaviours. They have a plethora of effective tools such as the Enable anti-bullying toolkit. They have anti-bullying and behavioural policies in place in order to provide a duty of care to all who attend. As such, they will want to know about any incidences that could potentially affect a child’s wellbeing. Take the evidence of bullying and any additional details about the context of the situation and length of time it has been going on for. It is helpful to discuss this with your child and you may want to speak to the school together.

  • Contact the police if you fear for their safety - If you think that your child is in immediate danger don’t hesitate to call the police. Equally, if there is a direct threat of violence or harm within any conversation then you may also wish to contact your local police for support.

Tap into expert bullying support

There are a number of UK organisations who specialise in supporting bullying victims. Consider working with one of the following organisations to get the help and support you need.


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