Imagine this: You get an Instagram notification on your phone. Excitement immediately pulses through your body when you realize you have a new follower on the photo-sharing app. Who could this mystery fan be who wants to know all about my life and my selfies and pictures of last night's dinner?
But after a few clicks, you realize it's not a new follower at all. In fact, it's spam, pretending to sell you fake hair. Fake hair? Yes, fake hair. What's even odder is the slew of other spam accounts, using the exact same photos of fake hair, following you too.
Instagram, we have a problem.
For months, like many other Instagram users who've been sounding off on Twitter, I've been noticing an uptick of spam accounts with pictures of fake hair. In one week, I reported eight incomprehensible usernames -- such as "chenta7437272" and "xingmei60119" -- all with the same fake-hair photos.
After noticing multiple complaints on Twitter, I decided to reach out to Instagram for an explanation. Was it spam? Were these accounts tied to Russian bots similar to what happened during the last presidential election cycle?
Instagram told "Good Morning America" in a statement this week that their users are suffering from spam and not a conspiracy connected to Russia's Internet Research Agency, the company responsible for using social media accounts to attempt to influence the 2016 election. It's just spam, and the company has already taken down hundreds of fake-hair accounts.
"We care deeply about the quality of content on Instagram. And we take spam, inauthentic and other abusive behavior very seriously," a spokesperson for the app told GMA. "When we find 'spammy' activity, we work to counter and prevent it, including blocking accounts and removing violating content all at once. We review suspicious activity closely and take the time to understand how to help prevent similar activity in the future."
The spokesperson added, "Our internal estimates show that spam accounts make up a small fraction of Instagram's monthly active user base."
In fact, the latest estimate for active Instagram users according to their statistics is 800 million as of December.
If you've been wondering what's up with all these fake-hair accounts, there's one way to get rid of them.
Report them by clicking on the ellipsis in the top right-hand corner of an account or any spam content. Then tap, "Report," then tap, "It's spam." And voila! They're out of your hair.