We’ve all seen impersonator accounts on Instagram.

Unfortunately, one fake account can unravel years of work for any real estate agent or content creator.

This episode of the Over Ask Podcast takes on a somber and cautionary tone, as Matt Lionetti and The Broke Agent discuss a frustrating standstill with Matt’s Instagram. 

On Saturday evening, June 4th, Matt checked Instagram to find the app had temporarily suspended his account because he’d violated community guidelines. He clicked on the link to appeal their decision and saw a message that Instagram would get back to him within 24 hours. 

Over a week later, and Matt’s account is still down. 

The WhatsApp Message

After sending about 20 messages to Eric, Matt received a WhatsApp message from a stranger saying, “Hey, bro, if you want to get your account back, I can do it for $500.” 

Matt didn’t respond and quickly marked it “unread.” He Googled his situation and found a form to fill out to report users impersonating him on social media. He typed in the accounts of known impersonators and provided a picture of himself holding his license to verify his identity. 

In the additional comments, he told them there had been a mistake and they’d suspended the wrong account. He’d had his account since 2012. 

He also mentioned the WhatsApp message he’d received — minutes after his account was suspended — hoping they would realize he’d been scammed. 

Et tu, Instagram?

Monday morning came with another message from Instagram: “Your account is being disabled because you’re impersonating someone else.” 

Again, Matt contested their decision. And again he took a picture of himself with his license. Now he waits for Instagram to realize they messed up and to restore his account. 

Matt didn’t expect any of this to happen. In the past, when Matt reported fake accounts impersonating his own, Instagram responded by saying the fake account hadn’t violated community guidelines or that the matter wasn’t urgent enough to look into. 

So, what had convinced them to disable Matt’s account? 

Paige Steckling, a guest of the show, also just had her Instagram account suspended. And, like Matt, Paige also received a message offering to restore her account for $500. 

Every single real estate agent BAM is following – including Byron Lazine and Taya DiCarlo – has fake accounts impersonating them on Instagram, and more and more keep popping up.

Reliance on social and the need to be versatile

Real estate agents like Matt have promoted listings on their Instagram, which benefits both them and their clients. Matt has been asked to join multi-million dollar listings because of his well-established and authentic presence on Instagram. 

“A lot of my sell is my social… And the fact that Instagram can’t tell immediately… They’re so tech savvy, you’re telling me they can’t tell these accounts were made two months ago, and I’ve had mine for ten years?”

Matt Lionetti

If this experience has taught us anything it’s how easily a social media platform can upend your business if you rely on it too much. 

The Broke Agent recently wrote a blog on the need to build an email list, because even if you have a large following on a social media platform like Instagram, you don’t own that platform. 

All it takes is one malicious scammer — combined with Instagram’s apparent inability to distinguish fake accounts from legitimate ones — to take it all down.

The most painful part of all this

For Matt, it isn’t so much about the following he had, since he believes he can get that back. It’s about the story of his account and the growth it’s had over the past ten years. He’s recorded experiences that he can’t simply recreate. If Instagram deletes all that… it’ll hurt.  

Eric recommends:

  1. Diversifying your online presence by posting on all social media platforms
  2. Protecting your own data 
  3. Growing your email list

If you rely too much on social media, you could wake up tomorrow and find your entire marketing plan in ruins. 

As far as Instagram — if the goal to drive people to TikTok, it’s doing a good job.

But if it’s wanting to do the opposite – draw people away from TikTok and back to Instagram – they need to do a better job of detecting and shutting down fake accounts and protecting legitimate ones. 

Watch the full episode for more of the conversation. 

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