Fake Tim Cook Instagram Account Fooled Apple VPs and Fans

A fake Instagram account pretending to be Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently spotted by 9to5Mac. The account, which used the username @tim.d.cook, had posted two photos that were copied from Cook’s official X account. The account also managed to get some followers, including some Apple vice presidents and other employees.

How the fake account was discovered

The fake Tim Cook account was created in July 2023, but it only started posting in August. The first post was on August 20, to celebrate World Photography Day. The post featured two photos taken with an iPhone, one of a dog and one of a sunset. The second post was on August 23, and it was a 30-second ad for the campaign in partnership with 3DPets, a company that creates 3D-printed models of pets using iPhone’s LiDAR scanner.

Fake Tim Cook Instagram Account Fooled Apple VPs and Fans
Fake Tim Cook Instagram Account Fooled Apple VPs and Fans

Both posts were identical to the ones that Cook had shared on his X account, which has over 14 million followers. However, the fake Instagram account had only about 2,000 followers at the time of its discovery. Among those followers were some Apple executives, such as Lisa Jackson, the vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, and Alan Dye, the vice president of human interface design. Some other Apple employees also followed the fake account.

9to5Mac contacted people familiar with the matter and confirmed that the account was not created by Cook. The account was then reported to Instagram and removed shortly after.

Why Tim Cook is not on Instagram

Tim Cook has been on X since 2013, and he uses it to share updates on Apple products, events, initiatives and personal interests. He also has an account on Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging platform, where he posts occasionally in Mandarin.

However, Cook has never joined any other social media platform, such as Facebook, Instagram or Threads. He has also been critical of some of these platforms for their impact on mental health and privacy. In an interview with CNBC in 2021, he said that “mindless scrolling” affects mental health and that he limits his own use of social media. He added, “I think it’s bad for your mental health. I think it’s bad for the people around you.”

Cook has also clashed with Meta (formerly Facebook) over its privacy practices. In 2021, Apple introduced an anti-tracking feature with iOS 14.5 that required apps to ask users for permission before collecting their data for advertising purposes. Meta opposed this feature and claimed that it would hurt its ad revenue and harm small businesses.

Interestingly, Cook does not use Threads either, which is Meta’s newly launched rival to X. Threads is a subscription-based platform that promises to protect users’ privacy and data from advertisers and third parties.

How to spot fake accounts on social media

Fake accounts on social media are not uncommon, and they can be used for various purposes, such as spreading misinformation, scamming people or impersonating celebrities. Some fake accounts are easy to spot, while others are more sophisticated and convincing.

Here are some tips to help you identify fake accounts on social media:

  • Check the verification status. Most social media platforms have a way of verifying the authenticity of accounts that belong to public figures or organizations. Usually, this is indicated by a blue check mark next to the account name. However, this is not a foolproof method, as some platforms may have different criteria for verification or may not verify all accounts.
  • Check the username and profile picture. Fake accounts may use similar usernames or profile pictures to the real ones, but they may have subtle differences or typos. For example, the fake Tim Cook account used a period between his first and last name, while the real one does not.
  • Check the content and activity. Fake accounts may post content that is copied from other sources or that is inconsistent with the real ones. They may also have low engagement or interaction with other users or post spammy or malicious links.
  • Check the followers and following. Fake accounts may have a low number of followers or following compared to the real ones. They may also follow or be followed by other suspicious accounts or bots.
  • Check the date of creation. Fake accounts may have been created recently or have a large gap between their first and last posts.
  • Report suspicious accounts. If you encounter an account that you think is fake or impersonating someone else, you can report it to the platform and help prevent others from being fooled.

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