How to Spot a Fake Social Media Account

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A man holds a smart phone with the icons for the social networking apps Facebook, Instagram and Twitter seen on the screen in Moscow on March 23, 2018. – A public apology by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, on March 22, 2018 failed to quell outrage over the hijacking of personal data from millions of people, as critics demanded the social media giant go much further to protect privacy. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

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Fake social media accounts can promote phony products, spread scams, and even share lies and misinformation. It’s important to spot a phony account right away – before you engage with their content. The following tips will help you discern which social media accounts are real and which are fake.

Tips for Identifying Fake Social Media Accounts

  • Look closely at the content. Scammers and spreaders of false information often fill their feeds with stock images, memes or other recycled images that are not original. They may use profile pictures that are not of an actual person, or simply an avatar. Be wary of accounts with no original images. Posts that contain no written content at all, or written content with many spelling or grammatical errors, could be signs of a fake account as well.
  • Analyze account transparency. Ask yourself, who runs this account? If an account profile is little more than generic phrases, quotes, or introductions, with no specifics about a person’s name, occupation, or background, you may have stumbled across a fake account.
  • Inspect the quality of engagement. Some fake social media accounts purchase engagement. This means that, at first glance, their account appears to have many real followers. However, these purchased fans and followers typically leave comments unrelated to the post, comments that are just emojis, and multiple comments from a single individual that aren’t part of a conversation. Even real accounts inevitably gather a few fake followers, but if the bulk of the engagement looks fake, steer clear.
  • Examine the follower-to-engagement ratio. Account owners can also buy followers, so one tell-tale sign of a fake account is thousands of followers, with little to no engagement.
  • Take advantage of verification indicators. Not every average Joe will have a verification indicator by their name, but if you want to follow someone who is famous or influential, make sure they have a legitimate, verified badge on their profile. Check the FAQ section of each social media network separately to know what the verification badge should look like and where it should be in the account. Accounts without verification are potentially owned by imposters.
  • Beware of polarized political opinions. Accounts designed to spread misinformation or sway political opinions often promote one-sided viewpoints that border on extremism. If an account posts only one-sided political theories and ideals, never revealing information about the person posting, you may be dealing with a troll.
  • Watch out for phony reviews. Another use of fake social media accounts is to sway consumers with phony reviews. If an account provides only extremely positive or negative reviews of a brand, without giving any specifics on the company or its products, it’s probably not real.
  • Be wary of scams. Fake social media accounts are also a favorite tool of scammers. If a social media account repeatedly shares the same link in a short period of time or if the account shares a link with incorrect information about where it leads, it’s probably a scam. Only click links you trust, otherwise, you could fall victim to a phishing scam and download malware onto your device.

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