How to spot a fake profile on Facebook
Last year Facebook estimated that more than 10% of profile accounts were fake or duplicates. And as Facebook surpassed 2.3 Billion users this year that accounts for an estimated 230 Million fake accounts. Whilst Facebook is adopting several strategies to point out fake profiles, it is also up to us to run a ruler over a new request or someone who has randomly reached out to us to be friends.
So why is it important to spot a fake account?
First and foremost, somebody with a fake account is, almost by definition, a con artist. While they may present themselves as a friend, or even a romantic interest, their sole purpose in friending you may be as harmless as a mind game, or they may be after much more, such as your money, goods, and property. The impostor might also be setting you up to steal your identity or valuable information from you that they can use to manipulate someone else.
As we told our kids when they were young – don’t talk to strangers. The same thing applies to anyone of any age socialising on the world wide web, especially on Facebook! And because it is known that older adults are more susceptible to loneliness, they can often be the main target for con artists.
At the least, think twice about accepting friend requests from people you don’t know and who are not connected to you through legitimate, verifiable means. If you’re not sure, ask them questions: What makes them want to be your friend? How did they find out about you? Who do you know in common? etc.
We hope that for any future friend requests from unfamiliar people – do a little detective work. At the very least, it can be fun. You might also find out that your would-be “friend” is really bad news.
This article covers a number of tips (in no particular order) to get you thinking like a detective – and to help you detect fraudulent profiles on social networking and dating sites.
1. Check their profile picture(s)
The first thing you see in a profile on Facebook is their profile picture. You can tell if a profile is genuine or fake by looking at it. Below are some concerns that you should check with the profile picture.
- Single Profile Picture: An active user on Facebook regularly changes their profile picture. If you see only one profile picture and the profile is new or 2-3 years old, it should raise a concern.
- Profile Pictures of Celebrities: Its okay if someone is a fan of a celebrity, but he will not put all profile pictures of that celebrity on his Facebook profile.
- No Profile Picture: The Facebook name is enough to compel someone to put a picture on the profile. If it is not there, it is alarming enough.
- A Perfect Profile Picture: Usually, people click pictures with the phone camera, and these pictures arent perfect. If you are seeing a picture of a model with a perfect angle and lighting, then it might be a fake one.
2. Read the profile carefully
Read the profile carefully. Does what is being said add up or are there some really hard-to-believe statements being made?
Also, be wary if the profile describes a personality that complements your own or is too good to be true. Often, imposters will create interests and activities that mirror your own in order to start a conversation.
Trust your own senses on this one. You could even ask for proof of some of the things the person has stated—they’re approaching you, after all. You have every right to make sure they’re legitimate.
3. Check out their friends
Are their friends global or local? The more local the friends, the more likely the person is to be real. The more global their friendship list, with very few or no local friends, start getting suspicious. The lack of local friends suggests that this is not a real person you’re dealing with but a fake account. They will often contact you with a line like “I saw your picture and you looked nice.”
Also check how many friends and followers are listed in the person’s network. Whilst the average Facebook user has 130 friends, an imposter will often have significantly fewer.
However, it is more common for Over 60s on Facebook to have a smaller number of friends on social media sites – and it is also possible that they’re just really protective of their privacy, so don’t draw a conclusion based only on this but keep it in mind.
4. Check for mutual friends
By clicking on their name, you can see if you have any mutual friends. If not, that’s a red flag. If you do, contact your friend(s) to determine whether they have actually met your newest online acquaintance in person.
Just remember there are many people that like growing their friend count without actually doing due diligence, perhaps including your “mutual friend”. So it’s always safe to check.
5. Look at their posted pictures and albums carefully
Check if they have photos with their friends. A real person will often have pictures with friends and family, who will have tagged and commented on photos. By contrast, imposters will often use modeling photos featuring only glamorous shots of the individual rather than group photos.
Also, most people use social media to talk about what’s going on in their lives. That means they’ll post photos of them hanging out with their friends and going to social events. If you’re talking to someone who never posts photos with other people on their profile, they may be a fake account. Be mindful that if they’re stealing someone’s photos, they may have pictures of them with other people.
Note: This can sometimes be difficult for older adults over 60, as some are not as technical savvy on social media sites to post, share or tag friends in photos. But if they’re really the person in their photos, you’ll find a connection.
6. Be really wary of undying declarations of love, affection, and romance
Be cautious if they push a relationship too fast. If someone you’ve never met, who lives thousands of miles away from you, and who has barely revealed themselves gets amorous with you, be suspicious. Sometimes the faker does this because they love the feeling of playing with the life and feelings of someone else; sometimes it’s because they’re in love with online love but are too afraid to reveal their true selves (or they’re in a relationship in real life); and other times it could be that they’re after something, like money, sex, or drugs.
Question your own feelings and motivations if you start to feel something for a person who declares they love you online. Is it too sudden? Too weird? Too freaky? A little bit icky? Trust those feelings and delete this fake friend from your account.
If they ask you for sexy pictures, immediately be suspicious. A fake account is a good shill for getting free pornographic material that then gets passed around online.
7. Look for and record inconsistencies
If you’re being targeted by an elaborate web of lies, eventually these start to unravel. This is most evident in someone who is trying to maintain several fake Facebook accounts at once and eventually, they will drop the ball and mix up their stories.
If you start noticing this in response to questions, or in their comments, take note and remain alert for more inconsistencies.
8. Beware interconnected faking
At one time it was probably reasonable to think that if someone had a group of friends interacting with them and vouching for each other, that that person must be real. Not anymore!
There are increasing cases of one person running numerous fake Facebook accounts, pretending to be an array of different people, all vouching for one another and all trying to be friends with someone real.
9. Pay attention if they ask you for money
A person who is genuinely interested in you shouldn’t start asking you for money, especially not right away. However, a catfish will ask for cash as soon as they think you’re willing to send it. If they request money, take a step back and reassess the situation. Stop and think, reassess back to your communications and whether you may have provided information or personal details that they could potentially use to access your banking details.
The person might ask for money for something that will help you. For instance, they might say, “I really want to meet you this weekend, but my car needs repairs. If you send me $100, I’ll get my car fixed and repay you when we meet on Saturday.”
10. If you get a friend request and in doubt, BLOCK them
Block the request. If you have a suspicious feeling about somebody, there’s a simple solution: don’t just turn down the request for friendship, block them completely.
Click on their Facebook name and go to their Timeline. On the right, under the Cover Photo, click on the Message settings.
You can block them from contacting you, or report them to Facebook if you feel they are a threat or involved in illicit or illegal activities.
11. If you are already Friends on Facebook but have suspicions, UNFRIEND them
Unfriend them! If you’re suspicious, unsure, or uncomfortable with having them as part of your Facebook friends, pull the plug. It’s not like they’re your real friends or family, and they could cause you a lot of future problems.
Warn other friends of yours on Facebook if you know they have also friended the fake account; one of the tactics of an impostor is to befriend others in your circle of friends to try to make the friendship seem more “real”.
Whatever you do, do not share too much with a newly acquinted stranger or someone you haven’t yet met. Don’t give out details that could answer a security question, like your mother’s maiden name or the name of the street you grew up on. Keep your banking information private — including the name of your bank.
Some fake profiles will try to steal your identity or get your financial information over a period of time – without you even being aware of it.
Finally, if you’ve been harmed by someone who posted a fake profile, report it to site monitors and authorities. Although it may be humiliating to be duped online, authorities will be able to identify imposters and close their accounts more quickly than you working independently.
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