How do you determine if a social media account is fake?

Social media companies have taken it upon themselves to clean up fake news from their platform. That can be good and bad. Hopefully the number of strange people sending you friend requests has dropped precipitously in recent months but their overzealousness has placed these companies in hot water with their users and with the government. In the end though it is up to the user not to be fool and knowing how to spot a fake social media account can go a long way.

There are thousands of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts. Some of them are linked to state-run media groups and used as a way to spam people or to gather information. Facebook recently removed hundreds of such accounts that were linked to Russian and Iranian media back in August. They try to get people to visit a site which displays a lot of ads, which will either generate ad based revenue for the person or could potentially infect the computer with malicious software. So how can you know if the account is fake?

Check the photo

The easiest way to spot a fake account is to look at the profile photo. Ask yourself why that beautiful woman in a bikini or that hunk of a guy would be sending you a friend request out of the blue? You have no mutual friends after all. You can download the image and search for it on Google. If it comes up from another site the image was taken from there and there is a very, very good chance that the account is a fake account. Time to delete that friend request.

Check the profile

When someone does send a friend request you are able to look over their profile. Fake accounts publish very few photos. Given how quickly these accounts are spotted no one wants to take the time to upload all kinds of real photos. If the account has been active for several months or for several years and all the photos on the page are the profile pictures it’s time to delete that friend request.

Look at the friends list

Still not convinced? Have a look at the number of friends the account has. Yes, there are some loners out there with very few friends but if they are going to sent you a friend request they probably know you and you know them. If the profile has no friends or only a few suckers, i mean friends, and you don’t know the person it is a fake account.

Timeline activity

Thinking about it still? Look at the activity of the profile. Are they posting photos, checking in at places or events or posting updates? If so it is a real account but chances are that gorgeous person who wants to be your friend isn’t doing that. No timeline activity means a fake account. If there is activity like comments on a photo read it. Is it in broken English or just saying anything complimentary. That means fake account and it’s out!

Read the Bio

Some profiles have a bio for the person as well. If it is absent it may be a fake account but not always as not everyone sets that up. If a bio is present read it. If the person says that they were born in London, educated in Cape Town and work as a refuse hauler in Galveston (OK you probably won’t see anything as obvious as that) it is probably a fake account. Also be suspicious if the person was born, lives and works in a well known city. While not a catch-all since it is a large city it can be a large determining factor. Many fake profiles use well known cities and locations to give an air of legitimacy.

Try contacting the “person”

Still sitting on the fence? Send the person a private message. If they never get back to you you are dealing with a fake account. Time to slam dunk that friend request into the delete bin. Know what else you can do? Type the name of the person into the search. If you have received a request from someone search it and see how many profiles with that name come up. Could be quite a few and that means it’s a fake account and it is even easier to tell if they use the same picture for the other accounts too.

Fake accounts do more than just spam people or post fake news. By friending these accounts people are able to learn about a person and steal information. This could be used for identity theft, target someone for a crime or even to create a fake profile to harass someone else claiming it is you and damaging a relationship with someone else. The people doing this are not just targeting one group of people, they go after everyone and knowing what you are looking for can save you a lot of trouble. They are equal opportunity trouble makers and we should not rely on just Facebook or Twitter to weed them out. Know what to look for.

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