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Facebook refused to take down fake account, says TikTok star

<span>The fake account accumulated 50,000 followers before it was taken down.</span><span>Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images</span>
The fake account accumulated 50,000 followers before it was taken down.Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

A young social media star with cerebral palsy says Facebook refused to take action after scammers used her content to set up a fake account and make money from her fans.

Grace Wolstenholme, 20, who has 1.3m followers on TikTok, says she has lost income from not posting videos after she was advised by the police to stop. Content she put on TikTok and on Instagram was being stolen and posted on Facebook by someone pretending to be her.

The fake Facebook account registered as a creator, which means it is eligible for fans to send stars and gifts that can be turned into money.

Facebook pays creators $0.01 (£0.008) for every star they receive. That means if you get 100 you’ll earn $1.00. Even though each star generates a small fee, it can become a source of revenue for those with big followings.

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It is not clear whether the scammers have received payments in this way, but the fake account has built up 50,000 followers since it was launched.

Wolstenholme had been trying to get the Facebook account removed for five months, reporting it to Meta – the Facebook and Instagram owner – as well as Action Fraud, which investigates scams and cybercrime. However, Meta only removed the account on Wednesday this week, the day the Guardian flagged it to them. They did not provide a comment.

Wolstenholme found the imitation account and reported it to Meta on January 2024 via its in-app tools. Accounts that impersonate someone else are against its community guidelines.

Wolstenholme went to the police in January and again in March after she realised the person running the fake account was attempting to make money. She was advised to go to Action Fraud and also take some time off social media. She reported the account to Action Fraud on 14 April this year and heard back from them a month later. It said it could not “identify a line of inquiry which a law enforcement organisation in the United Kingdom could pursue”.

Wolstenholme said taking time off TikTok “was quite a bit of a financial loss”.

She added: “TikTok isn’t just my job – it’s also a distraction from my mental health. I love posting and being able to spread awareness of cerebral palsy. Even though it is a common disability, there is still so much lack of knowledge and understanding on it. I am passionate about raising awareness of my disability.

“I tried my best to let people know that the Facebook page is not me by posting daily Instagram stories about it and telling everyone to report the page. I even posted a video on TikTok telling everyone: ‘The Facebook page is not me, they are stealing my content, please report it’.”

Action Fraud has been approached for comment.