Getting Faked Out On Facebook

Copy Cat and Facebook ID thieves – It can Happen to You


By Hector Cisneros

Courtesy of  commons.wikimedia.org
Online media from CNN to the UK’s Telegraph have reported that there are more than 170 million fake Facebook accounts. In fact, if you do a search for Fake Facebook profiles you will find almost 5 million references come up from your search. So there are fake accounts in all social networks, what’s the harm in that? Well, it could be some harmless fun just playing out a fantasy, or something bad like a rebuffed ex-lover looking to damage your reputation or even worse a criminal enterprise stealing your identity and phishing for more victims. In this episode of Working the Web to Win I will provide an in-depth look at Fake Facebook accounts, including my own brush with a faker trying to steal my identity. So if you’re ready to learn the truth about fake Facebook accounts and arm yourself with ways to keep from becoming a victim, read on a learn about what can happen, what to look for and what you can do to prevent this from happening to you.

Trying to Fake out the Connector - My Story

In 20016, I receive an email from a friend asking me if I was soliciting donations for a
Here is the account they tried to Steal! 
charitable organization I had not heard of. I immediately replied back that I was not, and asked if he could provide me more information. He sent me a copy of the message he received along with the link to the profile who sent it. Within minutes my research revealed that someone had created a fake “Hector Cisneros account”.  They had copied my exact image and some of my profile information, gleaned from Google and other places on the net. I took a close look at the profile and noted all the discrepancy and contacted Facebook immediately. I know from my work with Facebook that fake accounts are a big No No with Facebook and that the fastest way to get relief was to get them on the job of investigating my claim right away. To my surprise, Facebook pulled the fake account down within 15 minutes of my report.

Are Fake Accounts legal?

Courtesy of pixabay.com
Facebook's terms clearly state that each individual can only have one account. This was not always true. In the beginning, this restriction did not exist. Today Facebook states that you have to use your real identity and that each individual can only have one account. However, a person can have an additional account if the account is associated with a different business, entertainment venue (like a book or movie) or other enterprise or non-profit organization. I have one for each of my books, our radio show, and our company along with my personal account which has been up for 12 years.  All of these accounts are tied to a real person’s information, nothing fake.

Does your Fake Profile Make you a Criminal?

Breaking Facebooks subscriber agreement is the least of your worries. Uploading fake profile pictures can be a crime! Once you start uploading fake content and acting as if you're
Courtesy of www.thebluediamondgallery.com
someone else, you are misrepresenting them and yourself. It can be construed as an identity theft, depending on what you do with that account. As soon as you start corresponding or interacting with others, you are pretending to be that person. The act of uploading pictures in someone's name (without their permission) and messaging others, whether your motive is sincere or malevolent, can be construed as, misrepresentation (a Civil Tort), stealing their intellectual property (copyright infringement) and you can be charged with committing identity theft (a crime in all states) and if convicted spend time in jail. See, “Jilted woman face 18 months in prison after being charged with identity theft for creating fake Facebook profiles of her ex-boyfriend”.  A good article to read along with Facebooks on terms is an article from TurboFuture.com called - “Fake Facebook Profiles: Are They Legal? Can I Get in Trouble?” 

Facebook is at War with Fakers

Courtesy of Facebookhttp://www.workingthewebtowin.com
Facebook, like most internet global players, has had trouble with fake accounts since its beginning. We have written about fake Facebook accounts in the past and it has been reported in many other online magazines from CNN to the Telegraph in the UK. The Huffington Post published a good article about this battle call “Facebook’s War Continues Against Fake Profiles and Bots”. Check it out. 

Facebook and other social networks have purged millions of what they deemed fake accounts on multiple occasions. Many celebrities have been on the losing end of these purges where hundreds of thousands of their fake followers suddenly disappeared. Facebook publicly states that creating any fake account violates their terms of use and that it is strictly prohibited.

Cop’s Create Fake Accounts

Courtesy of pixabay.com
To add to the confusion (and maybe invasions of privacy, or and entrapment) - the police are creating Fake Facebook accounts. In the Justice Departments publication - "social media guide for law enforcement officials", it shows officers how to create fake accounts to gather information on suspects they consider being at high risk of committing crimes. Read: “Police are Creating Fake Accounts on Facebook So They Can Monitor You, How to Identify a Fake Account” .

Facebook does offer a lot of useful information in their help center to deal with fake accounts. Here are some links to Facebooks Help Center outlining their policies, to help you stay clear of trouble. Read; "Names on Facebook""Making Page Likes More Meaningful",  and “How do I report a fake account?”

Types of Fake Accounts

Why do people create fake profiles? The reasons are varied and span from trying to get free stuff to outright criminal or malicious intent. - Check out this article from Quora - “Why do so many people make Facebook fake accounts?”   Here is my list of why fake accounts are created.
  1. Bullying - The fake account gives the perceived subscriber impunity from retribution. 
    Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
  2. To get revenge - A person felt they were wronged and is looking for justice.
  3.  A prior lover or spurned suitor is looking to repay the pain they are feeling.
  4. Competitors are looking to hurt your reputation as a business.
  5. Mining for cell phone numbers of the affected profile and friends.
  6. A covert agency (like the police) creates an account to trap criminals.
  7. A covert agency (like the CIA) creates an account to discredit you.
  8. Monitoring status updates to track when someone is away from home.
  9. A person is stalking someone because they are obsessed with that person.
  10. They are used to create additional backlinks to “help” improve search ranking.
  11. Criminals use fake accounts to attack email list with virus-laden links.
  12. Fake accounts are created for sale to consumers looking to quickly grow their following. 
  13. Hackers create multiple fake Facebook profiles to use for access.
  14. Hackers create fake accounts to collect information for identity theft.
  15. Unscrupulous businesses create fake accounts for promotional spamming.
  16. Some people create fake accounts for testing purposes.
  17. People create multiple Facebook accounts to get more promotional offers. 
  18. Advertisers create fake accounts to display multiple ads on Facebook.

So how do you know if an account is fake or just some person trying to connect with others who they find interesting. The truth of the matter is - you have to do your due diligence because there is no easy way. A good article is listed in WikiHow that covers many aspects of what to look for.  Here is my due diligence checklist for you to use.

How do you Identify a Fake Facebook Account?
  1. Use Google images to search tool to find all of your profile images on the internet.
  2. Search a person's name online to see what photos and background info comes up.
  3. Look for inconsistencies - Look for the right location, age and other matching information that will help you identify them as the real profile you’re looking for.
  4. Look to see if they have been tagged by other friends in the pass.
  5. Look for a short or a lack of a timeline.
  6. Look for a minimal or incomplete profile.
    Courtesy of http://www.workingthewebtowin.com
  7. Look to see how many friends they have.
  8. Do they make out of character declarations towards you when they don’t know you?
  9. Does your anti-virus/malware software flag them as untrustworthy?
  10. Are they from another country, only speak a foreign language or ask you to connect via email.
The number of fake social media accounts is increasing. Now that you know how to spot a fake Facebook account, you need to learn how to protect your reputation, so that this doesn’t happen to you in the near future. Here is my short list of things you can do to protect yourself and your reputation.

How do you protect yourself and your reputation?
Courtesy of FTC & www.youtube.com
  • Don’t follow just anybody, connect with people you know.
  • Read your messages – delete any solicitations, people you have no connection too or just weird stuff. 
  • Block any request that has a creepy air to it. This blocks them from contacting you.
  • Decide on a probationary period for un-verified friend request. Ask friends to verify them. 
  • Do your due diligence and research potential friends on the net.
  • Don’t make everything in your profile accessible to all – just people close to you.
  • Be consistent with what and who you interact with.
  • Set up security settings in Facebook and in all your browsers.
  • Add anti-malware s/w to all of your devices - many have social media security built in.
  • Being vigilant - Do a personal search on your name regularly?


Fake Social Media Accounts are Everywhere

Facebook isn’t the only social network that has fake accounts. Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, heck you name it, just about every social media network is littered with them. There are hundreds of millions of fake accounts that have been created for a variety of purposes, from trying to improve search ranking to outright malevolent crime. If you suspect yours or a friend's account has been faked, let them know immediately. If you sure your account has been duplicated contact Facebook right away and present them with your evidence. They will remove the account once they determine the facts in your favor. Here is the link to Report the fake account to Facebook.
Courtesy of  Facebook Help

In this article I have provided in-depth information about why, and how fake Facebook accounts are created and used. I even cover my own story and provide information and links to many others. Also included are 18 reasons why people create fake Facebook accounts, a checklist of 10 ways you can spot a fake account, and my list of ways to protect yourself and your reputation from fake profiles. It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.

That's my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

If you’d like to read more articles like this, check out: Are Trolls Taking Control of the Internet, Can Competitors Harm Your Business With Impunity Online?, What's in a name? Reputation Management in the Digital Age and The Endless Scams of Christmas (and beyond)You can also type “Facebook”, “Internet Security” or “fake accounts” in the search box at the top of this blog to find even more.

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Hector Cisneros is a partner, COO and Social Media Director for the award-winning, Internet-based marketing firm, Working the Web to Win, in Jacksonville, FL. You can connect with him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. He’s also the co-host of BlogTalkRadio’s “Working the Web to Win,” where he and Working the Web to Win’s co-founder, Carl Weiss, make working the web to win simple for every business.  Additionally, Hector is a syndicated writer on Ezine Online and is an active blogger (including ghostwriting).  He's a published author of two books, "60 Seconds to Success"(available at Amazon and B&N), and "Internet Marketing for the 21st Century," which you can get by filling out the form above.  He’s also the co-author of the book, “Working the Web to Win,” which is now available on Amazon.com.

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