A married father-of-one has revealed to MailOnline how he has been the face of countless Instagram and TikTok scams, as criminals use his photos to take advantage of vulnerable women.
Military fitness coach, Farren Morgan, said that hundreds of fraudsters steal his name and identity to fleece people out of money on numerous social media platforms.
To curate a fake profile, scammers often use images of the serving soldier in uniform as well as photographs of his one-year-old son.
These accounts then put forward an array of fraudulent schemes including hoax competitions and dating site manipulation, with some women allegedly losing thousands of pounds.
Speaking to MailOnline, the 36-year-old trainer from London said: ‘These people are making a hell of a lot of money out of my name. I’ve seen three accounts where I’m holding my son. That makes me feel angry more than anything else – how low can you go?
Fitness coach Farren Morgan (pictured), 36, has been the face of countless online scams
Pictured: Farren Morgan’s real TikTok account is the verified @thetacticalathlete, but a search reveals that numerous other accounts are using photographs of him on the platform
‘I had a man message me last week saying: “You’re having an affair with my wife please leave her alone”. I was like: “I have no idea what you’re on about I’ve been married now for 10 years – I’m very happy you’ve obviously been scammed by a fake account”.
‘Honestly, there is not one day that goes by where I don’t receive an email or a message. It’s normally between one and five messages a day.’
Farren believes the scams started around three years ago when he first kickstarted his Instagram account (@farrenmorgan) which now has more than 220,000 followers.
He said: ‘I just realised in 2020 that people were receiving messages pretending to be me, saying: “Hi I’m Farren Morgan, if you would like to win a day with me then just follow this link”.
‘This takes you to a payment system where people paid £1 to £10 for this.
‘I thought it was one or two people, so I blocked them and reported them. Then I did a competition on Instagram and about 20 profiles with my face came up. They were all messaging the people that entered the competition telling them they’d won and to follow a link.’
On one occasion, Farren claims that a woman was scammed out of £3,000 after receiving multiple messages from a fraudulent profile like this.
The whole ordeal was said to be extremely stressful at first, with his fitness business just starting to do well.
‘At one point Instagram actually deleted my account and said I was the fake one while the others were still scamming people. I was really stressed out because my business was doing really well at the time and I couldn’t get hold of anyone at Instagram,’ he added.
Criminals often use images of the serving soldier and photographs of his one-year-old son
Pictured: A Twitter search reveals more than one account using Farren Morgan’s photographs. His real account is @FarrenMcoaching, but he has not used it in a long time
‘In the end, I got my account back. But that’s happened twice now even though I’ve been the real person.’
Farren Morgan scams have now spread to multiple platforms including TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.
The Instagram bio of one account reads: ‘Am looking for serious relationship and caring woman that will take good care of me.’
Another on TikTok claims they are an ‘author’, a ‘Los Angeles Native’ and in the military police.
The profiles come at a time when military personas are a popular choice for online scammers, as scientists recently found they are often used to demand emergency funds.
Fake Farren Morgan profiles use several tactics to hook people in, such as screen recording his videos and sending them to women on social media.
The 36-year-old trainer said: ‘These people are making a hell of a lot of money out of my name’
But Farren claims their messaging style is completely different to his, using words like ‘ma’am’ and broken English.
INSTAGRAM SCAMS: WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
- Anyone asking for money
- Someone offering a prize, money, gift card or loan
- Unverified public figures and companies
- People asking for a fee when applying for a job
- Messages from someone you know containing a suspicious link
- Someone claiming to be from Instagram asking for account details
- Anyone claiming to have a relative in an emergency situation
- Accounts which are quite new to the platform
- Spelling mistakes and grammar errors in messages/ posts
- Extreme discounts being offered
- Anyone who misrepresents where they are
- Someone asking you to take the conversation away from Instagram to a less secure platform
Now, Farren employs a team of three people to scour social media and dating sites for two hours everyday in search of these fraudulent accounts.
Last Christmas was said to be the ‘worst time’ of year with his team reporting around 500 accounts that were preying on victims for phone cards and food money.
But even blocking accounts is not far enough, as Farren claims that scammers are now using their victims to make new social media profiles for them.
He explained: ‘When I report someone on Instagram it stops their IP address from making another account.
‘So now, scammers are saying to women that they are Farren Morgan but they can’t set up an account now because their phone is broken or something’s wrong with their account.
‘They ask if the woman can set up an account with the name Farren Morgan and then send them the login details. So, people that are getting scammed are now making the scam accounts.’
Global Security Advisor, Jake Moore ESET, also told MailOnline that the prevalence of scam accounts was ‘probably the biggest unresolved issue with Instagram now’.
He stated: ‘Although reporting a duplicate account is the right path to go down, it is not always fool proof and requires more work to reduce the problem. When you report an account it may not be viewed by an actual member of staff for a long period of time so to speed this up, you will need to get multiple people reporting the same account quickly after noticing the fraud.
‘This pushes the account higher up the list to be looked at by a human. However, once an account is removed, the scammer sets on the same scam with another account, most likely already teaming with the same photos, paid-for followers and just a slight change in username.
Farren believes there should be more education surrounding fake profiles and verification
Pictured: One Farren Morgan account claims they are an ‘author’ and a ‘Los Angeles Native’
‘People need to slow down when accepting new requests and check where they can to make sure an account is genuine. Once an account has been proven to be a fake, it is important to report it immediately and let any contacts who may have already accepted and followed the fake aware of the problem.’
While Farren believes that a blue tick verification system is one way to tackle the issue, he claims there needs to be more education surrounding fraud and how to reverse image search.
The latter is a technique that takes an image file and returns any online results related to that image – a helpful tool when identifying if someone is real.
Farren also believes that formal identification should be required to set up any social media accounts in order to prevent harassment.
To protect yourself against scams, Instagram recommends that users should watch out for some key signs.
Red flags often include someone asking for money, offering to send money, gift cards or anything else.
Unverified accounts that appear to represent large brands or public figures are also deemed untrustworthy, in addition to anyone asking for a fee to apply for a job.
Instagram’s online advice reads: ‘If you see something that you think is a scam, you should avoid responding and report the scam to Instagram.
‘Bear in mind that your report is anonymous, except if you’re reporting an intellectual property infringement. The account you reported won’t see who reported them.’
The platform blocks millions of fake accounts each day thanks to a trained team of reviewers who look through reports day and night.
Both Twitter and TikTok also do not allow impersonation or deceptive accounts to exist on their platforms.
An online form to report any account that goes against TikTok guidelines is available on its website, while Twitter directs users to its help centre to flag these.
MailOnline has approached Instagram, TikTok and Twitter for comment.
Instagram launches crackdown on fake accounts with new feature giving users more information
Instagram has launched a crackdown on fake accounts, introducing a new feature showing users information about who is really behind a username.
The Photo-sharing app’ more than 1 billion users will now be able to evaluate the authenticity of accounts, weeks after parent Facebook rolled out similar measures in a bid to weed out fake accounts on its social media platform.
The ‘About This Account’ feature will allow users to see the advertisements an account is running, the country where the account is located, username changes in the past year as well as other details.
To learn more about an account, go to their Profile, tap the … menu and then select ‘About This Account.’
There, you will see the date the account joined Instagram, the country where the account is located, accounts with shared followers, any username changes in the last year and any ads the account is currently running.
Instagram also plans to significantly boost the number of verified accounts for public figures, celebrities, and global brands.
Along with the account username, applicants will need to provide full real names and a copy of legal or business identification.
Instagram also said it will allow the use of third-party apps such as DUO Mobile and Google Authenticator for two-factor authentication to help users securely log in to their accounts.