Sudbury

The motivation behind fake social media friends

If you spend time on social media, there’s probably been a time where you’ve signed in to have friend requests waiting for you from people you don’t know.

Why are you getting 'friend' requests from people you don't know?

If you belong to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, there's probably been a time where you've signed in to have friend requests waiting for you from people you don't know.

"It speaks to that kind of noise that often comes with social media," Jesse Hirsh, a technology expert said.

"On the one hand, you have the need to be sceptical about what you're reading, and increasingly now, you need to be sceptical about how you're reading it from."

Fake friends or followers come from a range of sources, including automated software, pranksters or advertisers, he said. As for celebrities and entertainers, Hirsh says there's even more of a market to have many friends or followers.

Jesse Hirsh is a technology expert based in Toronto. (Twitter/JesseHirsh)

"Maybe you've got a Facebook page and it's important for you to reach a million likes or inflate your numbers as much as possible," he said.

"There are companies who will sell you fake followers [and] fake friends to inflate your popularity."

But some people seem real when you get that notice, stating they want to be your friend. Their profile might say they live in your city and work at businesses you know. Hirsh says this could be the result of a marketing company targeting information towards you or a case of a stolen identity.

"Where they're taking the name and photos of other people and using them to create a fake account either to try and scam their friends or just to make that account more plausible," he said.

Protecting personal information

Hirsh says for a social media platform like Twitter, there's not much you can do if you see a suspected fake account. However, on Facebook, Hirsh says users are encouraged to report fake accounts.

So what is the danger in having fake friends? Hirsh says your personal information may be at stake.

"Part of their desire to connect with you is to steal your personal information," he said.

"For example, getting onto Facebook means they then get access to your friends, they get access to everything you've posted on your profile. So fraud, identity theft and scams are often a big motivator for these types of criminals."

Hirsh says if a scammer gets enough information through your Facebook page, they could impersonate you and open bank accounts of credit cards in your name.

He says some accounts are practically impossible to determine if they're fake or not. But, he says there are still some main clues that can help.

"If it's from some place you don't know and they don't know anyone you know, then yes, it's probably a bot who's crawling and trolling for friends," he said.

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