9.06.2013

How To Spot a Fake Facebook Profile And Stay Safe Online

Tips to spot a fake facebook profile
Courtesy of Asher
We have all heard the stories and seen on the news, stories of children lured by pedophiles, the stories of people "Catfished", the people who are swindled out of money, property, and more through people using fake Facebook profiles. As more people across the world join Facebook and other social media then security concerns become more important.  Because I am involved in so much social media through promoting my blog, and administrating a local trading post group, I have had my share of people trying to "catfish" me, hack me, spam me, bedazzle me, pull on my heartstrings, swindle, me, and fool me with their fake Facebook profiles and fake profiles on other social media. 

You would be amazed how many people create fake profiles for one reason or another. Many have no intention of doing harm, some just want to be anonymously part of an online group, some want to say or sell something anonymously and there are others who enjoy games and want to play games with more than one profile.  There are marketers who have been banned from a group because of spam so they create a new profile to join again and spam another day, There are some who want to spy on someone or several someones so they use a fake profile. This can be true of employers checking out their employees, government and police enforcement agencies checking out illegal activities, parents watching over their children, and even spouses checking on their cheating other.  The reasons can also go into the dark side where pedophiles, crooks, prisoners, predators, swindlers, human traffickers and even those who do worse reside. 

Having someone spy on you or stalk you can be scary and dangerous. The answer to this is to be careful who you allow to be your Facebook friend (or other Social media) and be careful of what your privacy settings are as well as what information you publish on the Internet anywhere (even on Facebook).  Something that many people (especially the younger generation) do not understand is that if it was ever published on the Internet anywhere (this includes private Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat profiles and/or photos) then it is there forever.  That means I can find it and so can other people. Even if you delete it there are still ways to access cached (stored) copies of those files. Do I have your attention yet?  NOTHING deleted from the Internet is really gone.

Letting someone you do not know be your friend online is not in of itself dangerous unless you are not careful about what you publish, when you publish, or you are prone to being lured into clicking on unknown links or lured into a relationship with them because you feel sorry for them, or begin to have romantic feelings for them etc. They can also become a nuisance by spamming you, pestering you, stalking you, etc.  One needs to be certain of their privacy settings and even their GPS settings on their photos (people can track you or your children with these). Be aware also, that if you Check in somewhere that it is possible for crooks to know you are not home and break into your home especially if your address is public. It could also be worse, when you check in they now know exactly where you are and can stalk you. There are sharks out in those Internet waters and I want to help you spot the sharks.

1. Beware of Flattery & Compliments!!!  If a stranger (I don't care how good their picture looks) sends you a message or leaves a post on your page saying how beautiful or handsome you are (even if you really are!) then BEWARE! Especially if they are really nice looking. Think about it, why are they doing this?  I am not trying to bash you only make you think. People who flatter are usually after something (especially when flattery comes online from someone you don't know). Understand that I am not against compliments. I enjoy them when they come from someone who truly knows me, someone who has proven with relationship (giving and receiving) that they have no agenda and who is not trying to manipulate me in some way. 

2. Beware of Strangers Asking For Help.  Think about this. If you need help you are not going to seek help from a stranger unless you are forced to.  People on the Internet looking for help are not really looking for help. They are probably looking to swindle you, or get to you in some way. Don't let their sad sob story sway you into sending them money and don't let greed fool you into thinking they would really share some of their wealth or windfall.  They will even say they are "Christian" and talk Christian Talk to sway you with. Be smart about this. If you do not know them do NOT send them money or give them personal information about yourself or your accounts.

3. Most fake profiles will use fake pictures.  If you don't know them, then you need to beware and check them closer.  Gamers will use an avatar photo from their game to help you identify their game. I have several game friends like this. That is OK. Just put them into a game category when you add them as a friend so they are not getting information about you that you do not wish them to have and be sure to set all your privacy settings appropriately when you share a photo or post. Business people may use a photo pertinent to their business...again this is OK. Make a category for business people so you can adjust your settings here too.

There are others who will put a fake photo on their profile. Lots of times they will put a photo that is of a Famous person, a model, a baby, flower, animal, cartoon, etc. Some people do this because it is an interest to them (such as a grand baby or a favorite thing) or they are trying to brand something (bloggers, photographers). Some people don't have a good photo to upload yet or they just have low self esteem about their pictures, some people are spammers trying to spam you with their links or ads, they could be hackers giving you links to lure you into clicking , others do this because they are hiding something. Check out the profile and see which it is. There are indicators that will tell you much on this. There are others who will put up a photo that is fake but it is a photo of a nice looking person or baby because they want to seem safe. Always check their profile closer when the photo seems off. Pay attention to the checks in your spirit. If it feels off or wrong then it probably is. 

4. Is it the only photo on their profile? If yes, then ask these questions. Why? How old is this person? When was this profile created? Check their birth date if available. Older people or people new to Facebook (and not social media savvy) may not have learned how to upload photos yet. If you know the person then a newly created profile is OK but if it is a stranger then beware! People new to Facebook or social media rarely venture out of their personal relationships at first unless they are savvy to social media. I make friends with strangers to promote my blog and I like to meet new people. There are many people who do just like I do but there are many who have dark ulterior motives. Check their profile closer to see what that may be. When they check my profile they are going to find posts that reflect who I am, photos of me and my family, etc.

5. The photo seems overtly sexual. Yes you may have friends who post stuff like that, yes you may roll that way but if you don't roll that way and this person is a stranger and they suddenly request to be your friend or request to join your group, then I would lay odds that they are going to send porn link messages, post links to porn or to websites that sell porn or sexual things, etc. We are a G rated group at our Trading Post page soooooooo, You are probably not going to make it to permanent membership if you have profile photos like that.

6. You have already friended this person before and they have requested friendship for another account. There has been a lot of impersonators on Facebook lately. I have seen this happen to several people I know. One such impersonator used my mom's photos, and my mom's information from her profile to create another identical (almost identical anyway) profile. This person then started friending my mom's friends. I do not know why unless they were hoping to infiltrate her friends and then at some point send a private message asking for money for some made up need.  I noticed that the people this happens to seem to be older and not as apparently active on Facebook. My mom gets on every day but she doesn't make posts or send messages. She likes to keep up with all the family this way. (I tease her about being a creeper lol. but the truth is she doesn't know how to navigate Facebook yet) Check to see if this person has relationships to other people on their profile. If they don't then that would be a red flag for me. Check the facts in the about section of this person too. The impersonators will often have glaring mistakes on their profile. A friend of mine caught the impersonator because they knew my mom and knew she was not as young as the birthday posted on the fake profile. If your loved one has this happen then check out their friends section and see if someone is out of place.  I found someone in my mom's friends who was from a different country (their photos told me that) and they had put her hometown as theirs. I am sorry but they are definitely not from my mom's hometown. Her hometown is so small there isn't a post office and they definitely didn't live there. Everyone knows everyone there! That was a huge red flag to me on who the impersonator might be.

7. The  Profile seems shallow. What do I mean by shallow? When it is a marketer trying to sneak onto my Trading Post Page then they will have a personal photo and then a photo on their header. They may click a few likes (some of these will sometimes not seem congruent with the photo or name I see). They will have no friends or very few friends. The profile will be created very recently. There will be no posts or almost none.  If there are posts, then they will usually be about whatever they are selling. There will be no information available on the person except maybe a link to their website. If you know the person then it is cool, they may just be private, they may be sharing their new business with you, or they are new to Facebook. If you do not know the person then beware! They may be spammers looking for an inroad to your friends, or worse.

8. The likes seem out of place. Once I had a spammer who had a photo of a young blonde white girl as their profile photo but everything they liked  and posted about (and I mean everything) was Asian and seemed to be things a boy would like rather than a girl. No I am not against Asian people. I like Asian people and their food too. I am friends with Asian people. This person was probably Asian and male, but they were pretending to be a white girl. This isn't illegal but it is suspicious. This caused me to check further to see what they were up to. Turns out they were spammers. All Asian people are not spammers. The point is not that they were Asian but: why not just put your own photo on your profile with your own name? Answer: Refer to #2 above.

9. Their friends seem out of place or non existent.  The person who was probably trying to impersonate my mom with a duplicate profile to hers was found in her friends. This person had friends who were all from another country. Again, I don't dislike people from other countries. I love people from all countries. But this person said they lived in my mom's town where they did not live and  that was cause for suspicion but I was even more suspicious when I saw they had no American Friends much less any in the state or town my mom lives in.  This was not anything I could convict with but very suspicious and worth looking deeper at their profile. My mom didn't know them, and she had accidentally added them as a friend and didn't know how to remove them.

10. The person sends a private message with only a link. Beware!!! This is probably a hacker, or spammer and if you click the link it is probably spam, porn, or software that gives them a way into your computer to track your every keyboard entry. Sometimes these people hack into profiles or email of people you know and then send you the link. Does it seem out of place for this person? Do you know this person? Don't click it. Better safe than sorry...but if you do click it then you will need to have your computer cleaned of malicious software, and until then go to another computer to change all your passwords just in case. 

11. Someone you do not know tags you in a photo. I do not know why people do this but I am suspicious it is for spam purposes or hacking, and it gets your friends to click on the photo. I never click on any attached links and I go to the photo and untag myself. I will then change my password. 

12. There are no posts on their profile. This is another indicator that should cause you to look deeper if it is not someone you know. Most people post on their profile unless they are fake profiles, or they are new and or unfamiliar with how to post.  If you don't know them and they have no posts then beware!

I wrote this post to help you and your loved ones stay safe on social media not to scare you from social media. Social media can be very fun and useful. It helps me stay in touch with family, old friends and business contacts. I have become friends with people (who were strangers to me) all over the world. These are people who I would have never had the opportunity to get to know otherwise. I enjoy them but, I am careful about what I share with them. If something seems off or I don't feel peace about it then I will not add them as a friend and even if I have added someone who turns out to not be right, I can still go back and unfriend them or block them if needed.  Stay safe out there and try to avoid the sharks.


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