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How to Spot a Fake Facebook Profile

Last week, I wrote about how creating and nurturing a Facebook Group has helped build a community around my scotch blog. What I didn’t tell you was that we also created one for a recent project, $5 Meal Plan. Briefly, $5 Meal Plan is a partnership between Erin Chase and myself and it’s a weekly service where we send you a delicious, affordable, and easy meal plan and shopping list.

One of the biggest features of the service is a closed Facebook Group where members can discuss the meal plans, share ideas about cooking, and otherwise have a place they can go and find a supportive group they can learn and grow with. The group is nearing 4,000 members as of this writing and is less than a month old.

The members are great. The conversations are extremely helpful, insightful, and it is just as valuable and helpful as the weekly meal plans themselves.

It’s incredible.

It’s also gotten to a size where spammers are attacking.

For those doing the math at home, four thousand members in three weeks means we’ve been adding nearly 200 people a day. Sometimes a few bad actors slip through, especially when you can’t analyze each and every request.

Take this for example:

Are These Real People?

Are These Real People?

Two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything of adding “Helen Shoaf.”

Today, I’m 99.9% sure it’s a spam profile account. Less than a month old and a member of over 40 groups – that’s not typical.

I loaded up her profile, click the image to get a larger version of it.
Who is "Helen?"

Does that seem real? The sniff test says… no. But I’ve only been doing this for three weeks (for this group), so how good is my intuition? (As Malcolm Gladwell would say, thin slicing is a good technique if you’re an expert)

I wanted something more concrete.

Something we can give to an assistant who knows nothing about social media and he or she can use it to spot these fakes. So after thousands of reviews, I’ve come up with a pretty solid system.

How to Spot a Fake Facebook Profile

The key is to find inconsistencies.

In the above example, the biggest one is at the top – “Do you know Helen? To see what he shares with friends, send him a friend request.”

Helen is most often a female name and she looks more like a she. This does not compute and would be reason enough for me to ignore the request.

To be 100% sure, I’m going to do a test that I consider the clincher. Take her photo and do a search in Google Images, see if it’s used for other profiles. To do this, load up Google Images and just drag the image into the search entry bar, Google will do a search.
Google Image Search Results

Now we see that the photo is used as the profile picture of several fake Facebook profiles.

Helen Shoaf is clearly fake. Don’t add her.

Funny enough, Helen Nordin is probably the real one. Not a great speller but it does say her current occupation, her former high school, as well as other details that a spammer isn’t going to fill out.

Here are some quantitative things we can see as markers of a fake profile:

  • Is less than a year old
  • Is a member of a lot of groups (often 40+), many of which are unrelated and in different languages.
  • Very few profile details, very few friends if any
  • Inconsistencies in the profile (photo of a male, profile says female)
  • The image search outlined above
  • Added by another member – 99.99999% of requests are made by the person to be added, so in our case an add by another member is a red flag

If a profile raises several of those red flags, scrutinize their profile and go with your gut.

Finally, even if you let them in and they start spamming, Facebook’s filtering is usually good enough that not every member will see it. You’ll see it, as an admin, and you can quickly delete and ban the user. We had a stretch where a bunch of fake profiles, each had the photo of a chef on it, each spamming the group with a link to a blogspot account.

When we discovered it, we just deleted the spam, banned the account, and searched for other profiles that matched that look and feel. It was pretty easy to spot and thus not difficult to fix. That said, it’s always nicer to catch it before it happens!

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

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