Fake Facebook Profiles and 8 Ways To Spot Them

Photo by Nghia Nguyen on Unsplash

Case of friend requests from known people.

Case 1: PhD. Senior

It was in September 2020 that I got a Facebook friend request from one of my seniors from college. I consider him as a good acquaintance as we had some good conversations when he was the teaching assistant (pursuing PhD) in a course I’d taken in college. I was confused at first since I’d assumed that he must have been in my friends list since college days. However, I thought that maybe due to my political views and bigoted posts he might have removed me from his friends list and later felt like adding me back to his friends list.

Few hours later, in late afternoon I got a message from that account on Facebook messenger. It started with some small talk, then abruptly shifted to a request for some financial help. He lived in some European country at the moment, not in India where I live, so I had assumed he must be well-off since he is quite experienced in his field of study and doesn’t have any addictions or bad habits as far as I could remember. But his friend request had come to me during the first wave of Coronavirus that had devastated the economy of nearly the whole world, and especially European countries. This made me decide to transfer him some amount since his request might be genuine. But I decided to visit the profile once before doing so. Why did I decide that? Maybe because visiting his profile was my way of meeting him in some sense, if that makes sense. I followed my intuition and scrolled through his profile. I almost accepted it as a genuine one, but the creator of this fake profile got his gender wrong. I noticed all his photos were genuine (obviously copied from the real profile) but one photo was of flowers, that looked like it was fetched from some random website since the quality of photo was mediocre. It was while looking at this photo that my gaze moved to the update on Facebook regarding this photo that stated: “so-and-so has updated her cover photo” but my senior from college is a “he”, not a “she”. It was then I also noticed that he had only few friends and we had only a handful of mutual friends whereas that number should have been at least a 100. I confirmed my suspicion by searching for his full name on Facebook and found two accounts with same name and profile picture, one of which was in my friends list. I thought that maybe he created his second account because his first account got full (Facebook only allows up to 5000 friends). I immediately messaged my senior to beware of this other account in his name that is fake and is adding people from his friends list. He immediately announced on Facebook about that fake profile.

Case 2: BTech Senior

Within a couple of month after that incident, I got a friend request from another senior from my college, this one was pursuing BTech during those days. Again I was surprised that this person should have been in my friends list. Again I checked the profile and saw that after the latest 5 posts, there were some posts of children and some other posts and I was sure my senior couldn’t have produced so many children since he was only in his early 30s. Then I searched for his name in Facebook search and observed that the “w” in my senior’s name has been replaced with “v” in the fake profile so that was another proof. I messaged him and he announced it to his facebook friends.

More cases: Batchmates and Juniors

Last year I got a friend request from one of my juniors from college. That same year I got a friend request from one of my batchmates to whom I hadn’t talked to in a long time. Once again I saw the same signs in both of those fake profiles: less number of friends and mutual friends, only a handful of photos and posts, and on searching on Facebook for his full name, I saw two profiles with exact same name — one of them already in my friends' list.

Last month I got a friend request from one of my teachers from school days. Immediately I messaged him to report that account and alert his Facebook friends.

Case of friend requests from unknown fake profiles.

Sometimes at the beginning of 2022, I got a friend request from two girls in a span of one month. Both of them had five of my Toastmaster friends on their friends' list. I noticed that the first fake profile who’d sent me friend request didn’t have any female in her friends list, which made me suspicious so I asked all our mutual friends whether they know her. None of them knew her, yet she was sitting quietly in their friends’ list. I understand it is not easy for a guy to say ‘no’ to a girl sending a friend request but please decline the request if you don’t know ‘her’. When you add such unknown ‘girl’ to your friends’ list, you give easy access to your information to those who create fake profiles, even if your profile is locked. Same was the case with the second fake profile.

Observations

I have noticed that creation of fake Facebook profiles to extort money had started since the Pandemic became widespread last year. This may have been happening earlier as well but I was at the receiving end only during the Pandemic. We all want to help people, especially those we know, but we must contact that person using another mode of communication such as a phone call, a WhatsApp message, or an email to confirm whether the request for financial help is from that person not from a fraudster.

Solutions

First, we must ensure nobody creates our fake profile to ask for money from our friends. To stop someone from creating your fake profile, I’d suggest that you lock your Facebook Profile. I did that a few months ago after I received the third friend request from a fake profile of my college junior. Locking one’s Facebook profile stops people (to a fairly large extent) from creating fake profiles to download your photos or get any information regarding you from Facebook.

Next, we must ensure we don’t get duped by such fake profiles. For that look for the following signs to check if a friend request is from a fake profile:

  1. If the friend request is from a person you know, check whether that person is already present in your friends list. If yes, then message them and ask them about the friend request from their second Facebook profile. If not, then check for the remaining signs as follows.
Photo Source: Screenshot by the author (The name in the URL is different from the name in the profile)

2. Name in the URL is different from the name in the profile. Check the name in the URL of the Facebook profile. If it doesn’t match the name in the profile then it is a fake one.

Photo Source: Screenshot by the author (Fewer number of friends, and all male friends in a girl’s profile)

3. Check the number of friends in the friends' list of the friend request profile. If the person has a very less number of friends (in single or double digits), then it is most likely a fake account.

4. Check the gender of the friends in the friend list of that profile. If the gender of the person is female (especially one with a pretty profile picture) but only has guys in her friends' list, then it is most likely a fake profile. Many such profile creators search for a pretty young face and use that photo to lure boys and men to join their friends' lists.

5. Check when the profile picture and cover photo have been updated. Fake profiles update the profile picture and cover photo with the same photos from the original profile and hence are always quite recent, like a few days old.

6. Check for any spelling errors in the name of the person. This can most likely happen in names that are either long or complicated to read. In my experience, the original profile created by the person themselves will never have any spelling errors in their name. In some cases they also alter the spelling to next best one, for instance Kabeer becomes Kabir, Pawan becomes Pavan, Bhawna becomes Bhavna, and so on.

7. Check the number of recent and total posts in the timeline. If the number is very less, say less than 10 then it is a fake one.

8. Check the kind of posts shared on the timeline. Most people share some personal updates, photos, or some Youtube link or blog link that they’d like everyone to watch or read. But if the posts are generic, such as a photo of a garden or some children playing then it is a fake profile.

There might be many other signs that could indicate that the profile is not real but an impersonation of another profile from your friends' list. It might be possible that your friend crossed the friends' list limit of 5000 friends, or may want to create a second account only for close friends and family. Hence, inform your friend about the friend request you got. They should also report the fake profile and you should also do that.

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Abhishek Sainani

Abhishek Sainani

An aspiring writer who often juggles between his inner world, his dream world, and the real world. Writes poetry, humorous observations and opinion pieces.