On most websites to get their services you will need to make an account and nowadays, it’s very common to use social media. As a result of this it’s very easy for anyone to create fake accounts and appear as another entity. So how do you spot fake accounts, especially in social media with billions of accounts?
Well, usually they look pretty legitimate but with a deeper look at the accounts you can figure out if it’s the real deal. Understanding how to spot the official social media profiles of businesses, brands, and people is critical as digitalization and our online presence increase. To win your trust, fraudsters may pose as official identities on social media sites. They can target specific people or large groups of people by posing as customer service or posting a fake deal.
One of the most popular methods used by con artists to deceive victims is spoofing. Cybercriminals will use your posts and images in this attack to construct phony profiles that are intended to deceive you. So, you risk losing a lot of money to social media scammers if you don't know how to identify bogus accounts.
Almost a billion Instagram users were recently in danger due to one horrible fraud. With the promise of a blue verification badge, thieves seduced their victims. Look for blue checkmarks on Twitter, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms to identify verified accounts (but not on Facebook). You can identify when a profile you're viewing is official by looking for verified account indicators.
What are bots?
Bots, short for robots, persistently spread stuff on Facebook, leave comments on posts, and stir up online discourse about unimportant or otherwise ignored subjects. Their actions mimic those of automated robots, as implied by their name.
Yet it's crucial to distinguish between good and malicious bots. Decent bots can automatically post news, weather reports, earthquake alerts, satellite photos, and more on social media.
Bad bots, on the other hand, are made to simulate real human action in order to further a specific agenda. Such computer programs may create and publish social media posts or comments, follow other users, or even send out friend requests depending on the algorithm.
What are trolls?
Trolls are people who behave destructively and erratically online, similar to bots. They are frequently paid to annoy specific public personalities or media outlets. This kind of targeted behavior is described by Facebook as "organized inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity." These campaigns may even be carried out by "troll factories" (to learn more about trolls and their role as agents of state propaganda, see the next article in this series).
The Internet Research Agency is one of the most well-known instances of a troll factory and is located in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The European External Action Service's EUvsDisinfo initiative, which aims to combat misinformation, discovered that the organization has spread untruths and pro-Kremlin messaging in different languages during various European and US election campaigns and in the run-up to several referenda.
The CIA sprang to prominence after US intelligence services revealed in a report published in January 2017 how it had manipulated US public opinion in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. At that time, Facebook has been actively deactivating accounts connected to the organization.
There are rumors that troll armies and factories are based in Saudi Arabia, China, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and India. In fact, The Washington Post reported in 2020 that teenagers who supported former US President Donald Trump were being paid to distribute false information online.
How to spot fake social media accounts
Fake Profile Pictures
If an account has the same default profile picture (If it’s not a recently created account) or is the same as another person or a very common wallpaper picture, then the probability of it being fake is very high. Often fake accounts don’t post a lot of pictures or have some random images found from the internet. If an account ticks the above boxes, it’s highly likely that it’s fake.
Very few posts
A real account gets followers/friends due to engagement. If an account doesn’t have a lot of posts, pictures or videos but it has thousands of followers, then that’s a red flag for a fake account.
Misspelling is a tactic used by people when creating fake accounts. For example let’s take Barack Obama’s Twitter account. His twitter ID is @BarackObama but it’s possible to make a fake account @BarrackObama where a lot of people will not see the difference of the extra “r”.
No Common friends
If you come across a fake account on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram then check their friends/followers and see if you can find common friends. If you don’t see anyone common with you that means it’s another indication of a fake account.
More following than followers
If you come across an account with a huge gap between the people they follow and their followers, it’s a red flag for a fake account. Most fake accounts follow other people hoping to follow them back to increase the follow count.
In order to make social media accounts, they have to be unique. All that’s needed for making an account unique is not to have the same characters as another account. By adding spacing characters like an underscore, hyphen, comma and a period between names make it unique. For example, “Barack.Obama”, “Barack_Obama”, “Barack-Obama”, “Barack,Obama” are all valid identifiers.
Too fast Engagement
Having more likes on your posts is good, so people buy the likes rather than earning it. It’s not easy to see this but imagine if an account posts a picture and in 10 seconds it gets 2000 likes and the post doesn’t have any comments is also a flag for a fake account. Because real engagement happens slowly and is a mix of likes and comments.
By using these tips and tricks it’s possible to identify the fake accounts lurking in the shadows and ban them. If you have any more tips let us know in the comments below ;).
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