Home How to Spot a Phony Facebook Profile

How to Spot a Phony Facebook Profile

Her Facebook profile says she is into men and women and that she has 726 friends. She graduated from a college that was 338 miles from her high school, according to Facebook.

She has never updated her status on the world’s biggest social network, perhaps because she was busy tagging photos: On average, she has 136 tags on every four photos she uploads to Facebook.

And she may very well be fake, according to a study released earlier this year by Barracuda Labs, which identified common characteristics of phony, malware-spreading Facebook profiles.

Fake profiles are a big problem for Facebook. The company had to file an amendment to its initial public offering paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to acknowledge that as many as 6% of its more than 850 million user accounts could be phony, despite strict controls and its best efforts to make sure people don’t register under pseudonyms.

We’ve asked Facebook for comment on what it’s doing to cut down on the fake profiles, which are often used to spread malware and spam other users. We’ll update the post when we hear back from the company.

On the harmless end, some of those Facebook profiles may have been created for a beloved family pet. More seriously, they may have been set up by a cheating spouse. And at their worst, fake Facebook profiles distribute malware. Users click on links sent to them by a new “friend” and end up with an infected computer. The profiles designed solely to entice you to befriend them were those examined by Barracuda in its study.

“Likes, News Feeds and Apps have helped lead Facebook to its social network dominance and now attackers are harnessing those same features to efficiently scale their efforts,” said Dr. Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks. “These fake profiles and apps give attackers a long-lived path to continuously present malicious links to innocent users.

Profiles Target Men

About 40% of “real” Facebook users analyzed by Barracuda were women, yet the gender in fake profiles was female in 97% of the cases reviewed. Of those, 58% claimed to be into both men and women, compared with just 6% of the real users.

Not surprisingly, the women are, by and large, classically attractive (Barracuda released an infographic with the key data points and created a border using photos from the fake profiles).

Tell-Tale Signs

We don’t advocate friending anyone unless you’re 100% positive you know them, but if you think you may know that person, here are a few things to look for.

Fake profiles had an astonishing 136 tags for every four photos. By comparison, “real” profiles had just one tag for every four photos.

43% of fake profiles had never updated their status, compared to 15% of the real profiles Barracuda analyzed. The tags appear to be a way to entice people to click onto a phony profile to see why they were tagged by someone.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.