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Instagram accounts created with stolen pics push bogus crypto schemes


Imagine yourself logging onto Instagram to search your name and finding more than 12 fake accounts that push crypto scams, all the while pretending you are there. Jason Sallman has been living in nightmares for several years.

Sallman refers to himself as “crypto-evangelist”; a lot his posts include images of Bitcoin.

Below is Jason’s Instagram account @JasonSallman.

You will see many Instagram accounts with his image handles if “Jason Sallman” is typed into the search engine.

Jason Sallman claimed that scammers have stolen his pictures to make accounts pretending to be him on Instagram.

Jason Sallman

Sallman believes he’s encountered over 500 fakes in the last few years. Sallman also said that he’s witnessed up to 25 active Instagram imposters simultaneously. According to Sallman, the whole process of reporting all imposters to Instagram is a full-time job.

Sallman stated that Instagram has a small function where users can report accounts. They’ll then review the report and respond in a few hours or days. 

Photos of Sallman and his family have been stolen by imposters who have also tagged Sallman’s wife under fake accounts. 

One of Sallman’s impersonators @jasonsallman.passive.income.fx has stolen several photos of Sallman with his wife and tagged her in the captions @jessicasallman.

Jason Sallman

It’s very creepy, and sometimes they will even make up captions such as, “Oh, my family is so happy that I made this much money mining.” 

Sallman shared a picture with CNBC producers at his first interview. Scammers reposted that photo and were bold enough to tag CNBC staffers filming the fake story with Sallman.

Sallman’s imposters even stole a photograph he had taken with CNBC producers. Imposter @_jasonsallmann republished the photo.


The stolen photo problem goes beyond copyright infringement. Scammers appear to have created many fake accounts and are engaging with Instagram users via direct messages pretending they’re Jason.  The scammers are hiding behind Sallman’s photos, promoting bogus crypto investments schemes to seduce IG users into signing up and stealing thousands of dollars.

Sallman said to CNBC that victims of impostor accounts had been able to track down his real account multiple times per week and demand that he return the money.

“I have received threats such as, “I’m going to kill you” and, “I’m going to beat you up.” Sallman replied. Sallman said, “They are like, ‘I know where your live.’ These are just a few of the many things you can expect. 

Sallman linked CNBC to a victim of one his imposters. The victim was willing to talk to CNBC as long as his identity wasn’t made public. This is to avoid the possibility that the imposter, who holds all his personal data, will retaliate. 

Texas resident claimed that Sallman convinced him to invest $500 in a fraudulent trading platform. It showed how his investments soared to six-figures.  He was then asked to withdraw additional funds in order to pay bogus commissions and fees.  The scheme cost the victim $20,000 and he lost it all.

Problematic –

Bob Kurkjian is a veteran of the military who first discovered his Instagram imposters in 2019 while serving in Afghanistan with the Navy Reservists. Kurkjian stated that he was able to use his account almost every day while overseas in order to keep in touch with his family and wife. 

Kurkjian stated that “on a very frequent basis, I would discover (either via friends, or simply myself) that other people were lifting photos out of mine account and creating new ones with similar names.” That probably happened to me forty times.”

Kurkjian stated that imposters frequently stole photographs of Kurkjian wearing uniforms. He believed the accounts were being used as a way to con people out of their money, according to information found in their bios.  

Brandy Morgan is an Instagram celebrity who said she had been dealing for years with fraudulent accounts. Brandy explained that @MsBrandyMorgan is her actual account. It was created to help other women in tech. 

Morgan stated that there weren’t many females posting programming and coding content on Instagram, so this was the initial story. 

Morgan said that more than 50 people have impersonated her on Instagram during the CNBC interviews she did with Morgan.  Morgan’s imposters, unlike Kurkjian and Sallman, often have a variation on their names. This makes it much harder for them to be found. 

My followers often send me messages saying, “This person just reached out to you or I saw your profile photo. Morgan stated that this is how Morgan finds out more about people.

Brandy Morgan stated that for years, scammers had been taking her pictures to create Instagram accounts pretending to be her.

Brandy Morgan

This problem is so widespread that she created a section on her Instagram called “fake”. It contains videos explaining it to her over 56,000 Instagram followers.

When real accounts get shut down

Milly Berst sent CNBC a few photos showing some of the fake accounts she had reported to Instagram.

Milly Berst

Berst was a freelancer and used her Instagram account to market her work. Berst said that she felt “angry” after discovering there wasn’t an easy way to talk to Instagram. Her husband suggested Linkedin.

Berst explained that Berst found Instagram workers through her husband. Berst also sent lots of emails to a female employee who worked at Instagram. Berst got her account returned after six frustrating weeks when one employee responded that she was open to helping.

Berst explained to CNBC that she has been repeatedly targeted by scammers using crypto-scammers. She’s put a disclaimer in her website explaining that she was able to use stolen images for fake bitcoin accounts. Berst also stated that she is not an investor or trader. 

Berst explained to CNBC that she had added the disclaimer on her website in order to clarify that her images were stolen for impersonation accounts using Instagram.

Milly Berst

Berst began adding watermarks to all her posts a year ago. She did this in the hope that potential victims would visit her website to see her warning when they were re-posted by scammers. But, she claimed it didn’t always work.

Berst stated that he has seen photos where someone added something to my watermark.

Many accounts are impersonating Millyberst, posing on Instagram as traders experts.

Imposters can be difficult to report

Morgan reported that she was sent this message by Instagram. She had been reporting @ariella_f_x_’s impersonation account.

Brandy Morgan

Kurkjian claimed that the platform has responded the same way to him after he became obsessed with finding every fake account while traveling abroad. 

Kurkjian stated that “About 10%” was the average time.

There’s no easy way to escalate problems, either — Instagram does not offer its 2 billion usersYou can reach a customer service representative by calling the helpline.

Sallman explained that there are ways to make the account disappear so they can speak to someone real. They would have acted if they had known that people could lose thousands of money by this event. 

Although it’s hard to determine how much victims lost via Instagram scammers and their associated costs, the Federal Trade Commission stated that consumers had reported losing approximately $1000. more than $80 millionBetween Oct. 2020-March 2021, a number of crypto currency investment frauds took place. This amount was ten times greater than that reported in the prior year.  FTC reports that victims reported losing $2 Million to Elon Musk impersonators.  

Experts in cybersecurity believe that Instagram can solve the “imposter” problem by using existing technology. 

Brian Vecci (Chief Technology Officer, Varonis), a data security firm, stated, “It is trivial these days to detect reposting, and platforms where reposting presents a threat are very adept at it,”. “The problem is that reposting in many cases poses no risk to the platform, and in fact increases engagement —more posts and more views mean more money from advertisers.” 

This means that more people, even those who open fake accounts, can mean more income. Social media sites for free have no incentive to shut down imposter accounts even though they might.

“These companies earn money by people using them and are motivated to lower friction when using their platforms.” Vecci added.

CNBC approached Instagram with a list Morgan-Sallman imposter accounts. The company promptly deleted them all.

The company stated that claiming to be someone else on Instagram is against our Community Guidelines. They also said they have a team dedicated to detecting and blocking these types of scams. There is more work to be done. We are committed to keeping our community safe and preventing abuse. CNBC asked Instagram for their opinion on the difference between what they said and Morgan’s reply. (Instagram didn’t respond to Morgan when she inquired about their explanation that Morgan had reported an imposter account @Ariella_fx_ did not break their Community Guidelines. 

However, the team appears to be not efficient. CNBC gave Sallman a list of imposter account numbers days before Morgan discovered another one. 

The crypto-scammers seem to have expanded their reach beyond Instagram. Sallman says she’s seen numerous impersonators selling crypto through the TikTok application, while Morgan claims she’s found active impersonators. 

Sallman stated that he has also been impersonated by many people on TikTok.

Jason Sallman

CNBC reached TikTok and provided a list with impersonators for Morgan and Sallman. The company then removed most Morgan’s and Sallmans’ impersonators. 

TikTok stated in a statement that it was working to preserve the authenticity and integrity of its platform as well as our incredible community. To this end, we have removed accounts which deceitfully impersonate other people and encouraged users to report any content or accounts violating our Community Guidelines.

Although Sallman’s fraudsters are active today, more were discovered since TikTok’s audit of the accounts.

Cyber security professionals have a simple message: if you post information on social media, your data can easily be stolen.  

Vecci stated that “we live in an age where content created is more identifying then your SSN, or even your phone number.” We deserve privacy regulations that are stricter than the ones we have now. All companies should treat our personal information with greater care.