In August 2012, Facebook has reported that 83 million accounts are fake or false that they intend to disable.
"On Facebook we have a really large commitment in general to finding and disabling false accounts," Facebook's chief security officer Joe Sullivan told CNN in a recent interview. "Our entire platform is based on people using their real identities."
Those 83 million users have been categorized by Facebook as Duplicate (48.5 million), Mis-classified (22.9 million), and Undesirable (14.3 million).
Duplicate accounts according to the Facebook's terms of service, users are not allowed to have more than one personal account. They are not allowed to create accounts on behalf of friends, parents, children, and other figures other than one's self.
Misclassified accounts are created by users as "personal profiles for a business, organisation, or non-human entity such as a pet". Those types of profiles are allowed on Facebook, but they need to be created as Pages not profiles. These accounts can be converted into approved pages without losing information.
Undesirable accounts are those that Facebook believes have been created specifically for purposes that violate terms and conditions. Those accounts are usually used for advertising, spamming, fraud, and other kinds of trouble. The third group is basically the smallest but most troublesome.
Now comes the most important question; How to spot a fake account on Facebook?
- Study the name. This is the first piece of information you will -with no doubt- know, from the moment this person invites you. If the name is an abbreviation, or a nick name, that is one indication - but that alone does not indicate a fake account.
- If the name is a full name (first and last are clearly stated), have a look at the profile picture in parallel. There must be a resemblance between the name and the image. An example would be: A western look with an Asian name or vice versa.
- Check the picture(s) carefully. Profile pictures can be an important indication about the profile owner, whether or not it is a celebrity picture copied from a website or a magazine, some body parts, or a real picture taken in natural conditions.
- If possible, check picture albums. Those too will indicate how normal this person's life is. Usually, fake accounts have few images, and are most of the time for one person, or emphasis on body parts to try and attract a higher number of friends.
- Carefully study the friends list. Usually, real accounts have the higher number of friends from his/her neighborhood. The more the mix, the higher the fake indicator. If common friends exist between you and whoever is adding you, can be used as an additional sign.
- If you can view this person's wall, try to find out the last time he/she commented on a post, or posted something on their own. See how frequent they use Facebook. Normally fake users and abusers, do not log in on a regular basis, and their comments are very broad. Ex: "Thank you for adding me".
- Finally, always keep in mind that this profile/person adding you is a stranger until he/she proves the opposite.
Those 7 are some indications to spot a fake account on Facebook. They are based on my personal experience using the internet social media and chat rooms. They as well are not limited to Facebook. In other words, you can apply the same rules above to all other networking websites such as My Space, twitter, hi5, MSN, yahoo, etc ...
By: Wissam Abdel Baki - PMP, ITIL, CITP
Note to the reader: If for any reason, you suspect that an account is fake, and you need a professional opinion, contact us and we will be happy to help, keeping in mind the non disclosure of any information related to this matter.