Jake Stein: the fake East student almost 800 people followed


The fake account, under the name Jake Stein, near the time of publication.

A few months ago, Jesse Sklar (‘24) and I pressed the ‘Add Account’ button on Instagram, and filled out the contact details of Jake Stein (‘22),  creating a fake account under a fake name. Under the account’s bio, Jesse and I wrote that Stein is graduating as a member of the Cherry Hill High School East Class of 2022, and will be continuing his education at Penn State University. We wrote in Stein’s bio that his account had been hacked and even added a stock image profile picture as a finishing touch, in an effort to deceive people into thinking the account was real. With the account made, Jesse and I expected Stein to maybe receive a handful of followers, and for the project to quickly die off. Shockingly, we were wrong; Stein’s account quickly ballooned, receiving hundreds of follower requests within days. Within the first six days, Stein had over 650 followers, mainly from students at East.

Both Jesse and I knew that many people on Instagram are focused on having a “good” ratio of followers to following. This meant that if Stein followed a bunch of people, we could expect that many of them would follow Stein back, not even checking to see who he was. However, if these people would have looked a little closer, they may have noticed that Stein is not in the Class of 2022 Google Classroom, any of Cherry Hill High School East’s Yearbooks, or the @che2022commits Instagram run by the Class of 2022 Student Government Association. Few people took the time to research Stein’s legitimacy as a person; the @che22commits account is a perfect example.

The @che2022commits account actively makes posts about East seniors being accepted into college. Anyone can directly message the account with their first and last name, picture, name of college, and intended major to be featured on the account, as its bio states. That’s exactly what Jesse and I did, under Stein’s account. We messaged @che2022commits, providing it with Stein’s full name, the university he plans to attend, as well as his undecided major status. Additionally, we sent the account a stock photo of a child we found online, claiming it was a picture of the younger Stein. After a day, though, the people behind @che2022commits realized Stein was nonexistent, and asked us to confirm that Stein was an East Senior.

In most cases, people did not do their research, like @che2022commits, nonetheless. Jesse and I, who swore the project to secrecy, watched in amazement as our friends requested to follow Stein, blindly, without doing their research. We wanted to understand why people would do this. Did people want more followers and expect Stein to follow them back? Did people think Stein was a legitimate person? Was it the “old account hacked” message in Stein’s bio that made people more likely to follow him? So, Jesse and I reached out to a few of Stein’s followers and called them, to have them answer these questions and give us their thoughts regarding Stein’s account.

“I don’t even know who Jake Stein is”, Jeremy Raden (‘24) told us. “I thought Jake was a real person, until you told me. I know for sure that some people definitely followed Stein’s account because they feel pressured to have more followers on social media.”

An anonymous East sophomore told Jesse and I similar information: “I did not put any thought into it when I followed Jake. I would never have looked him up on an East database.” He also told us that on Instagram, people look up others to view how many followers they have, and often judge them. He explained to us how there is a certain ideal ratio between followers and following; it’s better to follow fewer accounts than the amount that follows you.

I also interviewed Luiz Gandelman (‘24), a student in at Gulliver Prep, in Miami, Florida, , to get an outside perspective on the social media account. He told me about how in his school in Miami, he has learned to identify fake accounts like Jake Stein.

“The words that claim the account is hacked in the bio is an immediate sign that Jake is fake. Another redflag is the fact that Jake does not have any posts, story highlights, and his profile picture does not show his face.” 

Throughout the interviews, everyone seemed to agree that accounts like Stein’s are dangerous. Sketchy accounts, with names you have never heard of, can be used to promote scams or steal your personal information. It’s important to only accept follow requests from the people you know and trust. If everyone follows this logic, people will not have to worry about having more followers than others.

Today, Jake has “made friends” with at least one fourth of the school’s population, as well as students from nearby schools too, such as West and Eastern. He has more than 700 followers and continues to gain more with each day that passes; 1,000 followers is not out of the question, if people continue to not use Instagram safely. For now, if you go on to Instagram, and search for the account @Jake.Stein05, you can see for yourself how easy it is to deceive hundreds of people and create a fake name for yourself.