By now you’ve probably read or heard that there are a lot of fake social media accounts on the web. There are so many in fact, that’s it’s becoming increasingly harder to know who is real and who isn’t. Even your close friends or family members may have more than one account on a popular social media platform and they may not even know it.
Why are there so many fake accounts?
This is a good question but unfortunately there isn’t just one answer. Hacking, phishing, scams or even lost passwords can contribute to multiple social media accounts being created. Sometimes these accounts are easier to spot than others. They ask for money, they ask for personal information, banking numbers, and in some cases can trick you into even more dangerous activities and situations. It really is nuts to see this side of the web. Both Facebook and Twitter have had a growing problem with fake or duplicate accounts with no signs of it slowing down. In 2012, that’s seven years ago, estimates were conservatively guessing that somewhere between 4 and 10 percent of newly added accounts were fake and in May of 2019 Facebook announced that it removed 2.19 billion accounts that violated its user agreements. Yes, that’s with a B.
There’s also a very political reason for some fake accounts. So much so that people have created chrome plugins to see if a twitter account might be a propaganda bot. These accounts might seem real, but spend an inordinate amount of time sowing seeds of discontent. Our twitter loving president has even retweeted bots several times. So it’s not just you that might not be able to spot a fake account.
Let’s not forget influencer marketing. For many, the primary metric that determines if some one is an influencer, is the number of followers that they have. People actively buy fake followers to pump that metric up and look more influental. The easy way to spot crap followers is to look at engagement. If someone has 500K instagram followers and gets around three engagements on a post, something is really off.
How can we tell which accounts are fake and which aren’t?
Well, honestly, this might take some detective work. First off, if you know the person, reach out really quickly if they’re asking something from you. Sending information through social media is too easy and if you’re not careful you may be sending something to the wrong person. Look at who you’re talking too and if something isn’t right, reach out directly. Now, if you don’t know the person and you’re not sure if they’re legitimate, review their profile. Look for odd information like age and job titles. Are they regularly posting or does it seem fishy? Does the profile URL match the name on the profile page? Drag and drop their profile photos in a Google search, is there anything on the internet already about this account? Does their friends list make sense? Doing a little bit of research when a profile reaches out to you can go a long ways and protect you in the long run, so do your due diligence here.
I found a fake account, now what?
Hopefully you really don’t have this problem often. If you do, it’s time to start contacting the social media support team and voicing your concerns. These platforms work for all of us, not just the people who are trying to cheat the system and make money. Elevating your issues, flagging inappropriate accounts and marking accounts fake or hazardous is the best bet for getting these issues resolved and in a hurry. Use your online profiles to let others know of the issues and use photos if necessary. Because we’re all “connected” there is a high chance that these fake accounts will move onto the next follower who may interact with them and you can help mitigate these situations by helping others be on the lookout.
Again, be aggressive. If the account doesn’t pass the smell test, take another look. Dig into the details of the account, who they communicate with, who they are connected to and so on. Odds are if the account is fake you’ll spot an inconsistency fairly quickly. Report the account to the proper team and save any information you can about the account in case nothing happens at first. Keeping a record of events can sometimes help in the future. I know it all sounds doom and gloom but seriously, don’t be too trusting online. Everyone strives to be a better person and we wall want to help those in need but we can’t help others if we’re not helping ourselves. Don’t turn a blind eye and think it’s someone else’s problem. We’re all in this shitty social experiment together and we can’t keep posting our funny memes and gifs to accounts that only want our routing number, well then again, maybe we can.