Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Shady Instagram account accounts are at the heart of the massive US data breach affecting hackers and businesses
One of the world’s most celebrated fashion designers is using fake accounts to repair his “damaged” social media following.
Anhed Ali first became known to the world as the partner of Christy Turlington-Burns. The couple have four children together.
However, Anhed Ali has not seen much of his wife since she left him for another man and left him penniless.
“It’s not a good place to be. But how can I heal if I’m not [able to] share [how] hard it is for me?” said Anhed Ali in an interview with CNN.
Since Anhed Ali’s account was suspended in January, he’s been searching far and wide for creative solutions to get his page back online.
Image copyright YouTube Image caption Before she left her partner Anhed Ali revealed a turbulent period in their relationship
According to the beauty and fashion entrepreneur, criminals have contacted him to suggest creating a fake Instagram account to boost his following.
The shopping spree
The New York Business Journal also reported that Mr Ali (known as Ah-Hoh in the cyber world) has been buying Instagram followers and photo credits from mysterious organisations he has never heard of.
Image copyright YouTube Image caption Fake account owners buy credits on an anonymous marketplace called Fiverr. Users can pay from £4.50 ($6.00) for 10 credits a month. Photo credits are worth £1.50 ($2.40)
They suggested some of these purchases are worth as much as $5,000 (£3,900).
There are no direct links between any purchases and Instagram accounts and no one involved has ever responded to the accusations.
“There’s something fishy going on here,” says Cady Pearlman, chief executive of Fiverr, an online marketplace for creative work.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Anhed Ali’s online followings went up after he bought a bunch of credits on the Fiverr marketplace, the Fiverr story says
“I can’t account for all the fake followers that have purchased pictures and credits.”
Her take is that some company-affiliated accounts have begun purchasing credits. Some account holders just walk away with the credits and never post any work.
In the case of Anhed Ali, he says he has heard from other social media users who have been visited by fake appmakers.
He also claims a makeup artist was caught up in the scam. The man was passing along some of the credits he bought for friends on Instagram without knowing they were for someone else.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Once you purchase credits on the marketplace you don’t see how you’re using them and Fiverr.com says it has cut out buying credits over the last year
At the end of his interview with CNN, Mr Ali has “restored” his account after spending around $10,000 (£7,400) on images and credits.
Twitter has also been criticised for allowing the spread of fake accounts.
Both Instagram and Twitter have rules against buying fake followers.
In response to requests for comment, both Instagram and Twitter said they follow a regular process to ensure the safety of their platforms.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption By law, social media firms cannot share information on banned accounts
In 2015, social media companies including Twitter, Facebook and Google’s YouTube helped to bring down bot farms where fake accounts were used to maximise the reach of viral content.
Despite these efforts, social media is still being flooded with thousands of fake accounts, many of which target those based in countries such as China or Russia.
In the case of Mr Ali, Instagram’s policy states that accounts cannot be “substantially influenced by individuals or organisations outside of their country of registration”.
As a result, it said it could “not provide information on the nationalities of accounts” – a limitation likely to deter anyone who might want to profit from his photos.
Of course, every social media profile is authentic. And other accounts could simply be real accounts that misrepresent those behind them.
However, given Mr Ali’s experience, it’s clear a variety of fake accounts are now being used in dodgy ways to boost the number of likes and comments a social media page can achieve.
And, with fresh allegations about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s clear they need to address the issue now.