Since this past May, Twitter has taken down 70 million bot accounts, and experts say that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg. That’s a lot of suspicious accounts, and that’s just on Twitter alone. From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter to the many other social networks that exist today, there’s a lot of potentials for fake social media accounts and bots to access your information. Here’s how to protect yourself and your online information from these internet dangers.
- Understand the different types of fake accounts: Fake accounts can be broken down into two primary types, impersonators and hijacked accounts, and understanding which type you’re dealing with is the first step to protecting yourself. Impersonators are fake accounts that have been built as ways to impersonate a real person. Typically, they will borrow pictures from online, maybe a picture of one of your real life friends, and try to convince you that they are someone they’re not. Hijacked accounts are accounts that you or your friends actually own, that someone has somehow accessed.
- Spot an impersonator: If you’re dealing with an impersonator, try to pay attention to mutual friends and contacts when you get an initial friend request. If you don’t have any mutual friends or don’t recognize the person, it could potentially be an impersonator. You can also try reverse image searching their profile picture to see if it’s an easily available image that someone could have stolen or borrowed. Don’t give this person any of your information – it’s very likely they’re a bot.
- Spot a hijacked account: A hijacked account can be harder to spot, since a hijacked account could be someone you’re already friends with and interact with on a regular basis. Pay attention to grammar, speech patterns, and in general how they’re acting online. If something seems especially off and they start asking for your information, it’s possible you’re dealing with a hijacked account.
- Reporting fake accounts: What should you do once you suspect an account might be fake? The specifics will depend on what social media platform you’re using, but generally all social media sites will have a way to report a fake account. Make sure you report the account and, if possible, explain why you think the account is fake; it will help website moderators handle the situation appropriately.