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Influencer Paul Zimmer
Via Instagram @paulzimmer

The bizarre story of an influencer who gave himself a new identity

Paul Zimmer left social media after scamming his fans, but has reappeared as ‘Troy Becker’

New decade, new influencer drama. The 2010s brought us some real gems, from the Fyre Festival fiasco to the Caroline Calloway saga, but it looks like the stars of social media have no intention of returning to reality as we move into the 2020s – and this latest scandal is a strong contender for the weirdest yet.

The story of Paul Zimmer, first reported by the New Statesman, is baffling in terms of its bizarre – and at points incomprehensibly dumb – nature. The former star of the very small screen, whose influencer reputation took a hit after he disgraced himself to millions of followers, seems to have staged the most unsuccessful rebrand ever attempted by trying to hoax fans into re-following him on a new account belonging to an identical ‘stranger’. Unsurprisingly, the internet isn’t buying it. Confused? We’ll break it down. 

@username7265824

Ayeeee LIKE my new picture on Instagram: PaulZimmer for a BFF😍🔥 (CHECKING)

♬ original sound - flighthouse

WHO IS PAUL ZIMMER?

24-year-old Paul Zimmer shot to fame in 2016, with videos emblematic of TikTok: viral dance routines, lip-syncing to chart music, and flashing his abs. This earned Zimmer a loyal fan base of millions on YouTubeInstagram, and TikTok, using the latter to cash in on his popularity by offering fans DMs and shout outs in return for ‘gifts’. On TikTok, a gift is a type of paid-for sticker that users can send to their favourite stars, who then receive the sticker’s cash value. But it soon transpired that Zimmer was soliciting gifts without following up on his promise to repay the fans who had sent them.

The influencer suffered a spectacular fall from grace – when hundreds of users complained, the hashtag #BanPaulZimmer started trending, and in the virtual chaos that kicked off across his social channels, Zimmer himself disappeared. His Instagram and YouTube accounts were wiped of all content, and there was no sign of him for nearly two years. 

WHERE DID HE GO?

Zimmer remained on the DL until late last year, when he broke his silence with a bizarre Instagram post. On October 14, Zimmer posted a side-by-side picture of himself alongside an image of – wait for it – himself. “This actor @TroyBeckerIG kid literally looks like a younger, sexier version of me,” he wrote, apparently suggesting that the second picture of himself was not, in fact, himself. “I don’t even use social media anymore but had to post this.”

Zimmer ensured the two pictures had subtle differences – one image showed a clean shaven man, and the other saw its (kind of) bearded subject wearing a rucksack. Sneaky. The tagged account, @TroyBeckerIG, had barely any followers, and only a handful of posts. Comments were disabled on Zimmer’s Instagram, so it’s difficult to know whether fans were hoodwinked by this cunning move – though it’s hard to imagine many were fooled that the new account actually was an aspiring LA-based actor that Zimmer had simply stumbled upon and recognised as his near-identical twin. If anything, a wannabe teen star hoping to break Hollywood would probably have a few more followers, right?

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

A couple of months passed before Zimmer popped up with another post about Troy Becker. “I’M TELLING YOU HERE IS MY YOUNGER BRO,” Zimmer wrote on December 10, apparently responding to disbelieving fans. But then, just as quickly as he re-entered the social media stage, Zimmer made his exit.

“Hey it’s Paul Zimmer,” he wrote in a post on December 10, “this is prolly gonna be my last social post ever… I have come to a place in my life where being in the spotlight and being an entertainer is no longer my passion... although it deeply saddens me to leave so bluntly, especially that so many of you have watched me for so many years.... I didn’t wanna leave my social media pages just sitting to die... soo I have decided to give my social media accounts to @TroyBeckerIG because he is one of the dopest people I know and he is literally my younger twin – my much younger twin, I believe Troy is 15 or 16 years old hahaha…”

Fans didn’t find this so funny. Not only did it seem that Zimmer was trying to rebrand himself as an actor by pretending ‘Troy Becker’ was a different person, but he was also trying to dupe unsuspecting followers into transferring their loyalties and likes to this new account. On top of this, his apparent desperation to convince them that Becker was a teenager – and therefore a lot younger than Zimmer himself – left many feeling uneasy.

@username7265824

i love you cuties 😍❤️ Instagram: PaulZimmer

♬ original sound - greatsound

HOW DID HIS FOLLOWERS REACT?

Fellow influencers and Zimmer’s fans were unsurprisingly skeptical, believing it was unlikely that someone would hand millions of followers over to an internet stranger. If having exactly the same face wasn’t enough to set alarm bells ringing, even Becker’s captions and emojis echoed those typically found on Zimmer’s account. A couple of YouTube sleuths also unearthed pictures of ‘Troy Becker’ on the Instagram account of an acting school in LA from June, just months before Zimmer’s first Instagram post.

This was enough to convince most that Becker was indeed Zimmer, who was trying to relaunch himself as an actor. There were no past, present, or future projects on Becker’s sparse IMDb page, which listed him as “an all-American actor” who had been “acting from a very young age” and had “received high praise for the charm and realism he brings to his characters”. Oh, the irony. 

SO WHAT IS ZIMMER/BECKER DOING NOW?

According to the New Statesman, fans flooded Zimmer’s ‘Troy’ TikTok account to voice their outrage, with users saying things like, “Paul it’s really creepy you’re pretending to be 16”, “you’re not fooling anyone”, and labelling him “CEO of pretending to be a different person”. Until yesterday, the social media star was still posting regularly on TikTok and Instagram, and hadn’t mentioned the controversy surrounding his unusual ‘rebrand’, but both Zimmer and Becker’s IG accounts have now been deactivated, while his seven million-strong TikTok account has been renamed to ‘username7265824’ and all comments have been removed.

If you weren’t already convinced this whole thing was an blatant scam, Zimmer’s second attempt at ghosting the internet will surely do the trick. Nice try, hun.