How to Spot a Fake Account | (2024)

The tell-tale signs of fake accounts.

In the last quarter of 2023, TikTok removed 181 million fake accounts from their platform. And from October 2017 to 2023, Facebook deleted 27.67 billion fake accounts. That’s around 3.5 times the total population of planet Earth!

But what counts as a fake account? Surely if an account exists, it is in fact, real?

A fake account is an account where the identity on the profile doesn't match the identity of the person (or bot) behind it. For example: Someone who sets up an account pretending to be a celebrity.

As many as 1 in 3 Americans have at least one fake account in addition to their real one. And while not all fake accounts are created for malicious purposes, many unfortunately are.

10 reasons why people set up fake accounts

  • To orchestrate scams (e.g. phishing scams, dating app scams)
  • To leave fake reviews
  • To spread a political or religious message
  • To steal personal information
  • Promo abuse (signing up multiple times for new customer discounts)
  • To share their views without judgment
  • To spy on their partners/other people
  • To increase their chances of winning giveaways with multiple entries
  • To test a new idea in private
  • To increase the likes/engagement on their business or personal accounts

6 signs of fake accounts on user profiles

  • They’ve used the same profile image across multiple accounts.
  • They have an AI-generated profile image.
  • They’ve used the name and profile image of a celebrity or public figure.
  • The location on their profile doesn’t match the location of their IP address.
  • There are multiple accounts linked to one IP address.
  • They’ve made sudden changes to their account details (e.g. change of address, email etc.) in a short space of time (this could be a sign of an account takeover).

5 signs of fake accounts in reviews

  • They’re a new account, but publish a large number of reviews in a short space of time (this could show that they’re part of a fake review farm).
  • Their reviews are “copy and paste” (this could signal that they’re using AI writing tools for fake reviews)
  • Other users have flagged this account for scams or suspicious behavior in their reviews.
  • The seller account has an unusually high number of positive reviews, even though they haven’t sold much (or anything at all).
  • They write reviews for multiple businesses that are nowhere near the location of their IP address.

5 signs of fake accounts in direct messages

  • They send a high volume of spam messages to other users.
  • Their messages all follow the same template.
  • The content of their direct message is abusive, inappropriate or even illegal (e.g. racism, sexual harassment).
  • They attempt to “bypass”. This is when scammers encourage users to complete transactions off-platform (where there are no safeguards or checks).
  • Their DMs include links that take users off-platform. These links often lead to malware or phishing scams.

Why it’s in a platform’s best interest to remove fake accounts

Protect your users and foster a trusted reputation

Individuals and criminal organizations hide behind the anonymity of fake accounts to scam innocent people, send hatred, or spread misinformation. Their actions not only harm users, they also harm the reputation of the platform.

Gain an understanding of your genuine users

Fake accounts—whether malicious or not—can make it difficult for teams to gain a true understanding of their user base. When a platform has a fake accounts problem, their user data is not a true reflection of the people who actually use their product, and so, decision-making becomes a guessing game. By removing these accounts, platforms ensure that their data reflects genuine user behavior, enabling better strategic planning and resource allocation.

Maintain competitive edge

Platforms known for high levels of fake account activity may lose users to competitors with more stringent account verification and moderation practices. Proactively removing fake accounts helps retain users and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Comply with regulations

Many regions have strict regulations regarding user data and online fraud. Platforms that fail to address fake accounts may face legal repercussions, fines, or sanctions. Ensuring a clean user base helps platforms remain compliant with relevant laws and regulations.

Boost Engagement and Revenue

Real users are more likely to engage with content and participate in transactions than fake accounts. By focusing on a genuine user base, platforms can boost engagement levels and, consequently, revenue streams.

Encourage community growth

A platform free of fake accounts fosters a healthier, more active community. Genuine interactions and organic growth become more prevalent, creating a positive feedback loop that attracts more authentic users.

Support effective moderation

Fake accounts can overwhelm moderation efforts, making it harder to manage and enforce community guidelines. Removing these accounts allows moderation teams to focus more effectively on genuine users and content, ensuring a safer and more respectful environment.

How Pasabi can help you detect fake accounts on your platform

ID verification certainly helps to prevent some fake accounts, but it doesn’t catch them all. Scammers can set up accounts with fake IDs, or exploit weaknesses in biometric systems by duplicating or replacing biometric data by using sophisticated AI to generate deep-fakes to trick facial recognition technology.

Today, platforms need continual monitoring to weed out fake account abuse before it causes real harm. Pasabi’s Trust & Safety Platform does exactly that. It applies machine learning and AI to analyze user behavior for all of the points listed above (and more). It checks its repository of known bad actors to see if this user has been flagged elsewhere before. It then uses a unique scoring system to flag accounts with suspicious activity, so your team can investigate further and make informed decisions to protect your users.

This collaboration between humans and AI can help you filter the fake accounts that pose a threat to your platform from the legitimate users you want to protect.

Want to know more about how Pasabi can help you detect fake accounts on your platform? Sign up to book a demo today.

Further reading: Safeguard your platform with AI fake profile detection

How to Spot a Fake Account | (2024)


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