How to Spot Fake Social Media Accounts

Maggie Kimberl |

From catfishing to fake news, fake social media accounts are influencing elections, spurring divisiveness, and deceiving people at an alarming rate. This infographic from Social Catfish outlines the prevalence of fake social media accounts and fake news online as well as tips to spot both.

Where do fake social media accounts come from?

The Internet has become a world of social media and connections. Whatever your wish or desire, you can find it online and find people who share commonalities with even your most unorthodox interest.

With the bounty of internet expansion, fake profiles and accounts have increased exponentially. According to research, there are now 11% MORE fake social media profiles created for fraudulent purposes just from the years 2014 to 2016 alone. The ramifications of this are huge. It means that it’s no longer a question of if you’ll come into contact with a fake account, but when.

Who are all these ‘fake’ users? Ever wonder what would happen if you could digitally unmask fake profiles from their computer screen? Sites like SocialCatfish.com have done the expose for you and found that fraudulent users are just the tip of the iceberg:

1. BOTS: Fake users might be real users hiring bots or companies using bots to promote products. These days, Bots aren’t always after your money or credit card info. Often they are after your follows.Indeed, Calder Wilson is one professional photographer who tried BOTTING in 2015, to see if it would help an Instagram account get more followers. The results were effective. Instead of time and effort, by paying a site called Instagress, significantly more followers were gained than a real account. A bot had several thousands more followers in half the time, with only about 5 minutes real-life maintenance from Wilson, per week.

What do these bots do? Everything a person can without the authenticity of meaning it. They can like pages and even post comments. When the results of using a Bot means having new likes in the thousands, it can be tempting for a new user, business, or social media savvy user to buy likes. One company, Mediakix promoted pages through botting, at a rate of $3-$8 per 1k followers and $4-$9 per 1k likes. What happened? Within these fake accounts, 4 PAID BRAND SPONSORSHIP DEALS with beverage and clothing brand companies were secured. Not bad for some extra money spent!

2. COPYCATS & SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS: Not everyone posting memes really cares about the content. Some people post commonly liked images and content just to garnish followers and likes. This can be done by Bots, Catfish, or even social media savvy users who think of their account as a business they need to promote.



3. FAKE NEWS: Fake news is a term that 2016 ushered into the collective vocabulary. Whether it was about candidates or even stories or persons, a 2016 Stanford University study discovered 115 fake Pro-Trump stories on Facebook and 41 fake Pro-Clinton. While those numbers may not sound staggering on their own, the larger picture has shown 760 MILLION fake news stories discovered to date, with that number only rising. If those fake stories were read to every adult in America, that would be 3 stories per adult.

If you thought 2016 was the end of fake news, as many media outlets became more aware and took action, the truth is that fake news accounts and campaigns on Twitter and Facebook continue to attract attention, belief, and spread discontent. Sometimes foreign entities get in on the action, the page “Blacktivist” was eventually tied to the Russian government.

4. IMPERSONATORS: Pulling the mask off of an impersonator who was pulling the wool over one’s eyes was how things used to be, before botting took hold. Yet impersonators and scammers still exist and find their kicks on the world wide web!

Who are they? People whose own lives are lacking in happiness or substance may take over a fake identity by using a real person’s photos or details. That might be all they do, or they can be more sinister and post embarrassing content, pretend to be a trusted friend. Oftentimes, the goal is financially motivated and impersonators are after cash in their pocket by faking relationships to get money or using automated phasing attacks to find user’s password and sensitive credit card information.

5. REAL PEOPLE: Not every fake user has malevolent intent. Ever follow a funny dog who posts on Instagram? Newsflash, it wasn’t really the dog posting! An account for a pet, one made to play games or log into other sites, to support a professional alter-ego or pen name, or to express one’s self free of professional ramifications or tarnishing one’s reputation are all more valid, less toxic, reasons to have a second or third “fake” account. The difference is that these users, while in some cases potentially violating a site’s terms of service, are not out for monetary gain or to harm anyone.

Within the same realm is a term called FINSTAS. This primarily refers to Instagram accounts users (or Twitter and Facebook) who create a separate account for their behind the scenes life with family and friends. While their public account might be very polished or only showcase a part of their life, their behind the scenes account will be private, possibly not use the name connected with the popular account, and have more true to life, day to day posts, free of airbrushed photographs or fancy commentary.

Whatever the reason you encounter a fake social media profile, it can throw you for a loop if you trust any person or persona which is not what it seems. That is why SocialCatfish.com recommends always using internet safety. Do not share personal info with people you haven’t met in person and never, ever let your financial information be at risk online. Not sure if you’re talking to a bot, impersonator or real life person? Do a reverse search on Social Catfish now.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer

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