A Conversation With The Instagram Scammer Who’s Pretending To Be Me

A Conversation With The Instagram Scammer Who’s Pretending To Be Me

Here’s the important thing, the thing that you need to know before anything else: You cannot buy coverage on Stereogum. That’s not the way this website works. That’s not the way any halfway-reputable music-based media outlet works. Stereogum will sometimes partner up with music festivals. We accept advertising, though I don’t have anything to do with that, and neither do the other writers. But we don’t solicit or accept payment from musicians. If we’re posting music on this website, it’s because we think it’s good or interesting or important or some combination of those three things. It’s not because anyone Paypal’ed us a few bucks.

It’s important that you know this because everyone apparently does not know this. People like to joke about Phoebe Bridgers bribing us or whatever, but that doesn’t happen. And we certainly don’t hit up bands or artists, promising coverage in exchange for payment. But someone does that, and that someone is pretending to be me.

A month or two ago, I heard about an Instagram account that was posting and contacting bands in my name. This account was hitting artists up for $100, promising some kind of coverage on this website. The account was quickly shut down, but then another one popped up: @tombreihanx. This account uses my photo, screenshots of my articles, and the name of the book that I wrote. The bio is, I’m pretty sure, copy-pasted from my Twitter bio. It also links to my Instagram, calling it the “old page.” (I just used that account to post pictures of my kids, and I haven’t posted in years. These days, I pretty much just use my Instagram account to look for hardcore-show flyers. I am, god help me, a Twitter guy.)

For weeks, my colleagues and I have been hearing accounts from artists who have been DM’ed by this fake me, promising Stereogum posts — interviews, song posts — for money. Most of them were not fooled, but I’m sure some were. Here’s a series of screenshots of a representative exchange, with the band Moving Mirrors; the London group saw through the scam and shared these DMs with us.

I’m not including all the screenshots of the conversation here — it’s long — but the fake me, apparently impatient for this $100 payment, says things like “I really thought y’all were ready” and “You guys have to be professional.” It sucks! I feel bad for anyone who got their hopes up and got hoodwinked, and I also feel bad for anyone who assumes that this is how the music press works. It’s not! The music press can be fucked up, but it’s not that fucked up. (Pro tip: If you see me calling anyone “bro,” that’s not me. I tried using “bro” a few times, if only because that term now weirdly feels less gendered than “dude” or “man,” but it sounded unnatural, so I stopped.)

I’ve reported this fake account to Instagram several times, and nothing has come of it. My colleagues have reported it, too. I don’t know how common this kind of scammer is on Instagram, but it’s apparently very difficult to get through to anyone at the company to put a stop to their activities. I’m applying for a verified account, too, which feels ridiculous when I don’t actually post on the platform. (Maybe I need to start? I really don’t want to start posting shit on Instagram again. I spend enough time looking at screens already.)

People have used my name online before. This kind of thing happens when you’re just the tiniest bit of a public-facing person. When I wrote some angry things about the BTS Army and chart manipulation a few years ago, I got a deluge of angry tweets from fans, and I’m pretty sure someone started a Twitter called “Tom Breihan Sucks” or something. It didn’t last long. But this fake version of me has racked up a few thousand followers, including my friend and fellow music journalist Marc Hogan. (Hi, Marc!) Looking now, most of those followers are probably bots or scammers themselves, but the thing looks legit. It is not.

A couple of nights ago, when I couldn’t sleep, I tried something else. I DM’ed the fake me on Instagram, writing, “You gotta stop doing this shit.” I did not expect to hear back. Last night, though, I saw that I’d gotten a reply, and I spent a few minutes in a back-and-forth DM exchange with the fake me. (I could just post screenshots, but I think it’s funnier to format it as an interview.) Here is the unedited conversation:

You gotta stop doing this shit

FAKE ME: Ok bro
I’ll stop

FAKE ME: I just need something from you

You need to fuckin stop asshole

You seriously tryna hit me up for something?

FAKE ME: Well I need cash for my school
If you can help I’ll stop

FAKE ME: But if not I’ll continue

FAKE ME: Even if this account gets blocked I’ll create another one and still use your profile

FAKE ME: Until you’re wanted

Until I’m what now?


FAKE ME: You know you got some issues with people because of boogie

FAKE ME: You made an hate speech man

(Note: In February 2020, I wrote a rap column with the headline “A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie Fucking Sucks.” I went back and re-read that to see if I “made an hate speech” in there, and I feel confident that I did not. It’s pretty scathing, though.)

This is about a boogie? Jesus

FAKE ME: That wasn’t nice of you man

Even more pathetic than I realized

FAKE ME: Well I’ll keep tarnishing your reputation idc


Look at yourself

FAKE ME: I can stop if you want me to tho

I want you to think about who you are and what you want to do in the world

Who you want to be

If this is who you really wanna be, then I’ll just keep trying to get your fake scammer accounts shut down

But I feel bad for you

FAKE ME: I can also get yours shut down jsyk



Who is this anyway?

I’m just curious

FAKE ME: Someone you don’t know

Yeah no shit

FAKE ME: I’m working on getting my account verified soon
So you’ll be the fake 😂😂

Ok have a blessed day

FAKE ME: Alright my bro

FAKE ME: You should be happy someone wanna be you tho

FAKE ME: I can get you artists to write on

Keep trying

Im not hunting

FAKE ME: Whatever you say

FAKE ME: I’m making cool money off your name

Weird shit! It’s truly strange to have a conversation with someone pretending to be you, with your own photo popping up next to their replies, and to be told that you will soon be the fake you.

Stereogum is a music website, and this whole post is not about music. Hopefully, though, this will clear up some confusion about the way this website works. Hopefully, it’ll clear up some confusion about the way that the rest of the music media works, too. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a musician who’s starting out without any connections, who doesn’t know how to break through the noise and get noticed. (Even when we do post stuff on this website, it can be hard to tell how much it is actually connecting with anyone.) But you shouldn’t give money to writers, real or fake, who are promising to write about you. You just have to keep making music and hope somebody notices — somebody other than this unbelievable bottom-feeding piece of parasitic shit.

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