Lately, someone has been taking the fun out of our Facebook account, managing to creep us out, annoy us and make us question the visibility of our online presence in the process. Presumably the same person has attempted to add us from a variety of bogus identities on multiple occasions. As the friend requests (all of which went unaccepted) continued, it got increasingly and glaringly obvious that these accounts were indeed fake and that the creeper behind them was limited in strategic thinking. Some tried to engage in dialogue about specific pictures and friends, while our first imposter, “Lisa,” even sent sexual pictures before we blocked her account. Apparently the persistent type, “Lisa” then contacted another one of our friends who she had earlier asked us about. As fun as this game is, we’re over it Lisa, Laura, Abenezer, David, Ziko, Nikolina, Nila and whoever else you’re going to come at us next with. It’s getting old.
Apparently, fake accounts are not as far-fetched as they sound, and in discussion with fellow young professionals (YPs), some admitted to knowing people who have started their own fake Facebook accounts. It seems the main culprits are exes or current boyfriends or girlfriends of exes. In terms of the former, these were often described as your typical “psycho ex.” The creepy thing about it, though, is that you have no idea who the imposter actually is, and a million thoughts run through your mind as to who this creep could be—from a jealous peer or an ex to an admirer from afar. The reality is, some pervy dude sitting in his basement in his underwear at this very moment can also make fake profiles.
Something else to consider is that there can be a fine line between what is technically acceptable behaviour and what isn’t on Facebook. Think of your friends who use modified names or profile pictures that are not of them, but rather celebrities or even silhouettes of other people found on the Internet. That’s perfectly fine. Side note: did you know that you’re only allowed to have one personal FB page in the first place? Here’s how to spot the creeps, so that you may identify the bogus accounts and either block and report them or simply ignore and move on with your life.
Fake Facebook accounts: The signs
– They are usually female (a 2013 study by Barracuda Labs revealed that 97% identify as female).
– They have one lone mutual friend. In all of the impostor cases we experienced, the user had one mutual friend, and this said friend is the type who is friends with everyone (including thousands of social media contacts), and is the type who is always meeting people and will accept “adds” with little discretion.
– They recently “liked” at least a dozen TV shows, movies and musicians, but there is little other activity on their page, including posts by other “friends” on their wall.
– They only have one picture, often of a typically good-looking person. Alternatively, they may have a handful of profile and cover pictures, but none are of any people.
– They are from your hometown or city (i.e. Toronto) but now live elsewhere in the world – from San Francisco to Egypt in our case.
– They have less than 75 friends, and their friends are predominantly of a specific sex.
– Their profile features conflicting information and ambiguous job descriptions.
– A closer look at the groups they “like” reveals things like “Masturbation,” and “Group Sex.” We are going to bet that, even if you were the biggest supporter of both, you wouldn’t announce it on Facebook.
What to do about it
– Though it may seem obvious, search the person’s name online to see if it returns anything else, like a LinkedIn profile, other social media site, or bio on a company website. This is obviously less useful if the name is a common one.
– Check their profile picture by uploading it on Google Image Search, which uses facial recognition and other algorithms to match a picture. This will enable you to sort through “similar” images (along with information like names) to see if the same photo is found in other profiles, websites, porn sites, etc.
– If the profile is using pictures from other sites, go back to the fake profile, scroll down until you see the “Report/Block” link in the left column, and either simply block or report whoever created the profile. The person will not know it was you who filed the report.
– Whatever the case, don’t engage them in any way. This is exactly what they want you to do.
– If it’s a fake account, Facebook will take it down and likely lock other accounts that the user may have.
Reporting something to Facebook doesn’t guarantee that it will be removed; even though you may not like it, it may not violate the Facebook Terms. Of course, privacy settings allow us to make our profile as private or as public as we would like it to be. The catch is many YPs who are trying to build a personal brand may not want to remain unsearchable, or totally private, for business purposes the way that others may. Like anything else, be smart when accepting requests and with what you post. Come to think of it, it may even be time to clean up your friends list.
To report a fake account, click here.
Cover Image: blog.reyjunco.com