Spoofing is one of the most common ways scammers try to trick victims. In this attack, cybercriminals will steal posts and pictures to create fake profiles designed to trick you. So if you don’t know how to spot fake accounts, you could lose a ton of money to social media scams.
One nasty scam recently endangered over a billion Instagram users. Crooks lured in victims with the promise of a blue verification badge. Tap or click here to watch out for a tricky new Instagram scam.
Speaking of verified accounts, look for blue checkmarks on WhatsApp, Twitter and other social media sites (but not on Facebook). Verified account icons help you tell when a profile you’re looking at is official. Here are a few different ways to distinguish genuine social media profiles from convincing fakes.
1. Fake accounts follow a ton of people
Scammers try to cast a wide net. They’ll follow many people so they can access as many targets as possible. It’s also a sign that they’re a paid follower.
If you didn’t know, there are sites online that let you buy followers. So if you want to look like you’re more popular than you are, you can buy 1,000 or more followers. These are mainly automated accounts, which shady individuals or companies can own.
So watch out if you’re looking at an account that follows, say, 14,000 people but only has 12 followers. You’re probably dealing with a fake account.
If you’re not sure, look at the accounts they follow. Look for common themes or friends who know each other. If there isn’t a clear friend group or a network of family members, it’s another red flag.
How to spot fake accounts: Another helpful tip
Automated accounts will often comment on similar fake accounts. They want to create the illusion of authenticity. Scammers will create automated scripts for their accounts to comment.
All this effort has one goal: To convince you that you’re dealing with real accounts. After all, you would quickly be able to spot a fake account if it had no comments. Luckily, there are a few ways to spot automated remarks on social media.
If no one in the comments is saying anything of substance, that’s a sign that the comments are automated. Bot accounts will comment strings of emoji as well as nonsensical statements. This means you’re probably dealing with a fake account whose owner is trying to trick you with fake commentaries.
2. Scammers use your friend’s profile picture
Anyone who wonders how to spot fake accounts should know this. To get our guard down, cybercriminals will pose as your friends. They’ll send you things like, “I’m stranded, and I need help! Can you send me $100?”
Fall for their tricks and you’ll never see your money again. Tap or click here for a few ways to spot Facebook fraud. Sadly, you can’t be too trusting on social media.
In fact, it’s very common for scammers to use your friends’ profile pictures. You might see a random message from a friend and think it’s actually from them. But before you click any links in their message, first click on the profile.
If it doesn’t look like you remembered it, that’s a sign that you’re dealing with a duplicate account. If you still have doubts, message your friend on their main account or give them a call. Ask them if they reached out to you through a side account.
If your friend says they have no side account, take that as a sign that you’re dealing with a social media imposter. Report fake accounts to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This way, you’ll save others from falling victim to a scammer.
3. It has tons of meaningless posts
Scammers don’t have the time to craft in-depth posts for all the fake accounts they make. They’ll post lots of stock photos and memes to fill up their accounts. They want the account to look real, so they fill the accounts with meaningless posts.
After all, a blank account with no content whatsoever would be the biggest red flag. If you’re suspicious of an account, take a few moments to scroll through the posts. If there are very few posts and they’re full of recycled images, that’s a bad sign.
Also, look for written posts. If the account owner never talks about their day or shares anecdotes, stories or original jokes, it might be a fake account. This is especially true if you think you’re dealing with a fake account a scammer made in your friend’s name.
If you think someone stole your friend’s likeness and is impersonating them on social media, be especially attentive. Do the posts sound like your friend wrote them? If the tone sounds off, it probably isn’t your friend posting.
In that case, you should alert your friend right away. Then, send them a helpful guide that they can use to avoid identity theft in the future. Tap or click here for six mistakes that put you at risk for identity theft.