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Fake social media accounts and what to do if someone is impersonating you

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan warned followers about a page pretending to be her. What do you do when someone uses your name and picture online?

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Imagine finding someone pretending to be you on social media, using your name and pictures.

Cybersecurity experts said it happens more often than you think. The latest victim is Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. Someone made a fake Instagram account impersonating her.

The fake account was still up Wednesday night.

Vaughan said she also found a fake Facebook page for herself. She did what most people would do in that situation, and reported both fake profiles.

Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram will let you file a report on fake accounts. Cybersecurity expert Ron Pierce said it can take days to get a fake profile taken down.

"Somebody on Facebook's end is going to have to review it just to be sure," Pierce said. "Once it goes through the review process, then usually they will terminate it."

It can be hard to tell the difference between a real account and a fake one.

Both of the Nancy Vaughan accounts had the same page bio and almost the exact same posts. A key sign to look out for is the number of followers.

The real account has thousands. The fake has less than 100. Pierce said fake accounts will usually have a small number of followers or friends.

He also said sometimes imposters are just creating mischief but most of the time it's more than that.

"It's in the hopes they can trick somebody," Pierce said. "They can message someone and they'll get personal information or depending on the scam, possibly even money."

It's not just a problem for public figures. It happens to private citizens too. Pierce said it can be hard to stop someone from taking your name and pictures, so you have to be on the lookout for impostors.

"If you have friends telling you that they got a friend request from you, go and see if you can find that profile, report it to Facebook and get it taken down," Pierce said.

In the meantime, Pierce said you should make a post warning your followers that any messages from the fake account are not coming from you.

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