Social Media is currently being racked through the coals. Every profile, every user is being judged for authenticity. With so many extensions already in place, people were unable to stop Cambridge Analytica from downloading our profile details and that of our friends.
Unfortunately, the dangers of fake profiles and how they’re used to slyly collect user data and stalk people needs to be tackled first before simply deleting a profile. The data that already exists on the social media profiles isn’t going to magically go away by simply deleting a profile. It already may be mined by people who have created a fake profile in your name and use it to further data mine more content about you. These fake profiles are then used in online political polls and also by data collectors to establish a consensus of the people from a particular area and age group.
Fake Profiles: A Harsh Reality
When social media first became mainstream, the one caution we were told to abide by was not to talk to strangers. We quickly forgot of this warning only to become part of fandoms of shows that we loved or become a part of a community of followers of an artist or a band.
Such groups, which are visited my many are hubs for ‘Con Artists’. (what else do you call someone who fakes someone else’s profile) in such pages of mass followers and gatherings, with a certain prerequisite in mind, one can easily fool a random user into believing in the svalidity of their existence.
What has become more alarming is that with the number of such fake users on the rise, they target a mutual and then claim to validate the authenticity of the fake profile’s identity. Case in point, ‘Cat Fish’. This is a sad reality for many. In it, one enters into a relationship by creating a fictional online avatar. This has become a rather common phenomenon on the internet. Irrespective of intention when looking for love, partnership or plain simple revenge, this has become a common tool for criminals who fake online identities and even entire social circles. They do so, merely to manipulate people either emotionally and at time financially.
It is also a perfect tool for pedophiles. Hence, one needs to know how to spot a fake profile before interacting in any form with them. Here are some steps that one needs to undertake.
How To Spot A Fake Account: Across 3 Social Media Applications
Facebook: The most commonly used social media platform, Facebook has many pages that are profiles or groups. One needs to keep in mind a few points when trying to spot if a fake profile has sent you a friend request.
- The profile picture is that of a random object or of a celebrity. (this happens mostly if one is part of a group on Facebook, that is focused on a particular show or an actor)
- There are many or too few friends, out of which none are your mutuals. (this mostly happens with girls when they get random strangers and friend request merely for their profile picture.)
- If there are mutual friends, they are not locally located. In fact, the mutual friend may just be based out of another country! (this is usually a case of stalking and your mutual friend may be catfished by the faker too)
- The description in their ‘About’ section. (a pointer here is if the profile boasts of being a young individual and their profile claims that their professional capacity is that of a CEO of a company or that of a professor of an esteemed university, then definitely, this profile is a fake one.)
Twitter: This is where it becomes tricky. On Twitter, everyone is a stranger. There are very few who have real friends on this heavily used social media platform. A fake profile here is usually interested in achieving 2 ends. Imitating a user so that they can use said profile for political polls and to further spread fake news. Or, they are a bot account created with the intent of creating propaganda for a product or a brand or even an ideology. Here are a few pointers that one needs to keep in mind when trying to spot if the Twitter profile if a real person or a fake one.
- The profile picture is the only media that they have on their profile. At times they are even eggheads. (the attraction of a profile picture is solely because we judge a person on the way they look. So, if the profile has either an egghead that means it is a new account and if it has a flawless looking profile picture, the only one in its media, that is one of the factors that point towards a fake profile)
- Excessive number of duplicate tweets posted without any changes. (such type of things should sound alarm bells in one’s mind. Such profiles are bots that are a part of a pool which tweet out similar things to get stuff trending)
- Confusing user names. (profiles that use more consonants and a lot of ‘xyz’ in their rather long winding profile name. This is another pointer that the profile may be fake and created with malicious intent.)
- The profile follows exactly 2001 people. (this is a protocol created by the twitter core team. The minute a profile reaches 2001 following, they need to get 2000 follower in return to. It won’t let the profile follow anyone else until its own follower number reaches 2000 minimum. Exceptions are always given in the case of celebrities.)
Instagram: Ah Instagram! The place where all food is scrumptious, the girls are divas and all men Adonis. Nothing ugly or outworldly ever is posted on Instagram. It’s like living in one own heaven. With the help of excessive filters, we can make every day peanut butter sandwich into a gourmet dish that shall earn us likes by the truckload. To top it all, if one just creates a short 3 second video in which the inside of the gooey peanut buttery goodness of the sandwich can be seen, well, in that case, you will probably win the internet for the day! While everything may seem goody goody, this social media platform is the hub of fake profiles.
- The name of the game on Instagram in generating multiple number of followers. (The greater the number of followers, the more there is chance of cashing in as an Insta Legend. So, if any profile tries to engage you, first check the ratio of the number of followers and how many they are following)
- Be wary of profile names that are alphanumeric. (A profile with a random name like John76767554536 is most definitely a fake one and only focused on generating followers)
- Picture perfect posts of exotic locations with no journey logs. (many a times fake accounts use pictures from stock and then post it claiming it for themselves. For every location there should be at least some pictures of the journey involved.)
- (always make sure that the timeline aka, the time since the page has been created to the ratio of posts and number of followers should make sense. If in a small amount of time, one creates a mass following and has merely a few posts to show for it, then that profile is definitely either a fake one or using some sort of automation)
Verdict: Common Sense and Constant Vigilance
There you have it folks! Mentioned above are few of the things that one can keep in mind while trying to spot a fake profile. Always remember, no number of followers is more important than compromising your digital identity. For it to be safe, always be alert before engaging in any profile. In the words of Professor Mad eye Moody, “Constant Vigilance”.