Fake Facebook Friends

The Scam:

A fake Facebook account, either run by a automated ‘bot’ or a live person, will try to friend you for the purpose of gaining access to your information and friend lists. How big is the problem? As of August 2, 2012 Facebook announced that more than 83 million accounts are either fake, duplicates, or of users cats.1

Bot vs Live Person

Barracuda Labs has studied this problem and listed the common differences between fake and real profiles. For instance fake accounts generally have over 700 friends while real people average around 130. Fake profiles have 136 tags for every four photos while real people have about one for every four.2

The purpose of the bot is to send spam and advertising to you and your friends, steal your personal information including physical address, email and phone numbers, and possibly try to take over your account through use of the trusted friend account recovery feature. The fake bot could also post links leading to malware or illegal sites.

Facebook estimates that over 14 million accounts are used to spread spam and malware.1

When a live person creates a fake account their motives are usually much more sinister. Recently spies created a fake Facebook account using the real name of Admiral James Stavridis of NATO for the purpose of gaining personal information from his real life friends and family.3

You may not have state secrets but fake Facebook accounts are routinely used for stalking and harassment, information gathering such as your pictures, email address, phone number, physical address, and other intrusions into your personal life.

Don’t Get Fooled:

Here are some tips to spot fake Facebook profiles:

  • A retouched profile photo or a photo looking like a super model is usually indicates the profile is fake.
  • Search the person on Google to see if they are referenced anywhere else.
  • Are they tagged in other photos on Facebook? Are there cross post comments on those photos.
  • Is their personal information including likes and hobbies filled out? Generally fake accounts do not have this information.
  • Does the person use their real name? Fake names = fake profiles.
  • Does the person have more pictures of things than people. This points to a fake profile.

Barracuda Labs Fake Profile Analysis

If you or a friend are the victim of harassment or bullying on Facebook contact NU Public Safety.


1Facebook: 83 Million accounts are fake

2Attackers Use Fake Friends to Blend into Facebook

3Facebook Social Engineering Attack Strikes Nato

Updated 2012.08.08 with new numbers from Facebook