How do you manage your Facebook friends? Do you keep your list really tight and only include ‘active’ pals? Or do you accept everyone you’ve ever laid eyes on? I’m probably somewhere in between. But… if I have never had a personal conversation with them and ‘eyeballed’ them in the flesh, then they don’t get a guernsey!
Over the last few weeks I have received a steady increase of friend requests from people who I just don’t know. My gut tells me that these are fake accounts. Why? I’ve never eyeballed them, they have few or no friends, and have very little personal information available to share on their profiles. I mentioned this to my 20-year-old son who informed me he gets about 10 a week!
And while it can be annoying being harassed by randoms – as my kids would say – the issue is far bigger than that. Fake Facebook accounts are usually designed by clever cyber crims who are trying to extract personal information from unsuspecting naive types – often kids. And why do they want our personal information? It allows them to put together a profile that they can use to apply for loans, mobile phone plans, etc – but we’ll get to that later.
How Big Is The Fake Account Issue?
In its latest reporting, Facebook nominated that it has a whopping 1.86 billion active monthly users. Now, in 2012 Facebook’ reporting stated that 8.7% of its accounts were either fake or duplicates. Even assuming the percentage has stayed about the same, that means there are now a monstrous 161 million fake Facebook accounts! So, it’s highly likely that you (and your kids) will have been affected.
How Can We Tell If A Facebook Account Is Fake?
Experts believe that fake accounts fall into two categories, being operated either by a bot (aka web robot) or by an ill-intentioned human. But irrespective of type, there are several warning signs that an account is fake. If the account in question displays three or more of these signs, then avoid it at all costs:
Bots exploit beauty and often sport a pic of a gorgeously attractive girl or handsome guy on their pages. Why? We are only human – an enticing photo dramatically increases the chance of having a friend request accepted.
Not Many Pics
Bots tend not to post lots of photos. Their aim is to use minimum effort to create the illusion that a real person is behind the account so they don’t bother too much with fleshing out a personal life.
Weird Bio Information
If the biography information on the account seems fanciful or just plain unrealistic, then it’s likely not to be a legitimate account.
The Account Doesn’t Message
Bots can easily accept friend requests but can’t respond to messages. So, if you are unsure this is a great little test – just send a message and see what you get back!
Blank walls are a dead giveaway for a fake account. If your possible ‘new friend’ has either no activity or just a few likes – then be suspicious!
Lots Of Likes
Some bot-controlled accounts are set up to like a certain amount of pages a day. Over time this can add up, so be wary!
Why Are Fake Facebook Accounts Created?
As mentioned earlier, cyber hackers create fake Facebook accounts with the aim of trying to friend people and get access to their personal information. Identity theft is their motivation. They can profit from this private information by personally taking out loans or credit cards in someone else’s name. Or – and this is more likely – they on-sell the information so others can do so.
But fake Facebook accounts can also be created just to make money. Buying and selling Facebook fans is a multi-million dollar business, as both companies and individuals pay big money to get fans and likes to their page. And with the software to create these fake Facebook pages costing no more than $200, you can see how easily profits can be made.
What To Do If You Are Sure A Facebook Account Is Fake
- Most importantly, do NOT follow or accept a friend request from the account.
- Report the account to Facebook by clicking the report option. When Facebook receives around 10-20 reports about a specific account they will investigate, so it’s worth doing.
Lastly, do NOT insist your kids delete their Facebook account because of the threat of fake accounts. Teaching our kids how to live online is probably one of our biggest jobs as parents of digital natives. Thinking critically, understanding risks and learning how to navigate obstacles are skills that will hold them in good stead for their entire lives. Whoever thought discussing a face Facebook account could have so many benefits!