How To Spot A Fake Facebook Account

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 or ‘eyeballed’ them in the flesh, then they are not on my friend list!

On the average week, I usually receive a few friend requests. Some are from people who I may have just met or reconnected with when I’ve been out and about – lovely and totally acceptable! But I do also receive requests from people whom I have never met and then, even more bizarrely – requests from people who I am already friends with. Weird, yes, I agree!  Now, my gut (and experience) tells me that these are fake accounts. Why? Well, I have never eyeballed any of these ‘new friends’ and, to top it off they have very little personal info on their profiles so that’s suspicious! And the requests from friends I already have? Well, unless I have heard directly from a friend that they are setting up a new Facebook account (very rare), these are likely fake accounts that scammers have set up to try and lure people known to the account holder to share private information. I recently mentioned my Facebook friend situation 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 criminals who are trying to extract personal information from unsuspecting naive types – often kids and less tech-savvy types. And why do they want our personal information? It allows them to put together a profile that they can use to steal our identity so they can apply for loans, mobile phone plans, etc – but we’ll get to that later.

How Big Is The Fake Account Issue?

According to reports, Facebook deleted a whopping 27.67 billion fake accounts between October 2017 and mid 2023 – which is 3.5 times more than the total population of the entire planet! In early 2023, Facebook estimated that fake accounts represent approximately 4-5% of all active monthly users. Now, as of late 2023, there are over 3 billion active Facebook users which means there are around 150 million fake Facebook accounts. So, it’s highly likely that you (and your kids) will have been affected.

How To 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 any of these signs, then avoid it at all costs:


Bots and scammers will use beauty to lure in ‘friends’ and will often feature 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.

But remember, ‘real people’ aren’t flawless and perfectly formed. But if you still aren’t sure, why not use Google Image search to verify the pic? As soon as you upload it to Google, you’ll quickly find if there is someone else that belongs to that image.

However, AI image generators are also making this a little more complicated. These easy-to-use tools make it super easy for scammers to create alluring vaguely realistic images within minutes. And as these images are new, it’s very hard to find any data about the image making it harder to identify that the photo is not of a real person. All the scammer needs to do is provide 3 or more photos and the tool quickly generates an often appealing. So, please lock down your personal social media platforms so that cyber hackers can’t get their hands on your pics!

Not Many Pics But Too Many/Not Enough Friends

Bots and scammers 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.

But often, they will put a lot of effort into developing a fake friend list. This is always worth looking at. ‘Real’ Facebook users will usually have between 200 and 350 friends, so if the account in question has just a handful of friends, or instead several thousand then proceed with caution!

Weird (or No) 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. I recently received a request from a US marine who had fought in every recent war, was a professional athlete, and had visited 30-plus countries in the last year! This fanciful detail had my alarm bells ringing and a reverse image search proved just that!

A lack of information in the About section is another red flag. ‘Real people’ usually like to enter their accomplishments and the schools/universities they attended in detail so they can connect more easily with old friends.

Sometimes scammers might attempt to flesh out this section by simply repeating a theme or city. For example: Works in Sydney, went to The University of Sydney, Lives in Sydney. And while it’s not a crime to work, live and study in Sydney – I did! – this coupled with an alluring picture and no friends does start to make you question the validity of the profile.

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 Wall

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!

The Account Name Doesn’t Match the URL

If the account name and URL don’t match then this is another red flag. When a genuine person’s Facebook account is hacked, a scammer (or new owner) may change the name on the account to better suit their new intentions. It’s important to note that stolen Facebook accounts can be bought and sold. For example, an account could be taken over by a scammer and then sold to someone who wants to become an influencer. The new owner, the influencer, has no need for the previous identity but simply wants the legitimacy (and friend list) of an established account.

Why Are Fake Facebook Accounts Created?

As mentioned earlier, cyber hackers (or scammers) 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 multimillion-dollar business, as both companies and individuals pay big money to get fans and likes on their pages. 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

  1. Most importantly, do NOT follow or accept a friend request from the account.
  2. 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 accounts because of the threat of fake accounts. Managing fake accounts is just part of living in our digital world. Our job is to teach our kids how to think critically so they can navigate the challenges of being online. Our biggest job as parents of digital natives is to teach them how to assess risks and navigate the challenges and obstacles. Whoever thought discussing a fake Facebook account could have so many benefits!

Take care.

Alex xx

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