How to spot a fake Facebook profile (infographic)

How to spot a fake Facebook profile (infographic)

Summary: Have you ever received a friend request from a Facebook user whom you've never met or even heard of? Chances are this person doesn't exist and you're looking at a fake Facebook profile.


How do you spot a fake Facebook user? People have many strategies, including looking at the content on their Wall, checking their mutual friends, and/or just scanning for anything out of the ordinary. Security firm Barracuda Networks has taken it a step further in a study titled "Facebook: Fake Profiles vs. Real Users."

The study analyzed a random sampling of 2,884 active Facebook accounts to identify key differences between average real user accounts and fake accounts created by attackers and spammers. You can see the results in the infographic above, or if you prefer, a quick summary follows:

  • Almost 60 percent of fake accounts claim to be bisexual, 10 times more than real users
  • Fake accounts have six times more friends than real users, 726 versus 130
  • Fake accounts use photo tags over 100 times more than real users, 136 tags per four photos versus one tag per four photos
  • Fake accounts almost always (97 percent) claim to be female, as opposed to 40 percent for real users

"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," Dr. Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks, said in a statement. "These fake profiles and apps give attackers a long-lived path to continuously present malicious links to innocent users. Also, researchers have shown how friending malicious accounts can lead to account takeover using Facebook’s trusted friend account recovery. We have analyzed thousands of fake accounts to determine features and patterns that distinguish them from real users, and created a feature-based heuristic engine to distinguish real users from fake profiles."

Millions of Facebook users tend to accept friend requests blindly. That's why social bots can be so effective. Next time you get a friend request, ask yourself: "Do I really know this person?"

See also:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • RE: How to spot a fake Facebook profile (infographic)

    The distance between highschool and college stats is pretty intriguing.
  • RE: How to spot a fake Facebook profile (infographic)

    I'm guaranteed not to accept a fake friend request on Facebook. It's real easy - if I don't know them in real life, then I don't need to friend them on Facebook. Problem solved.
  • RE: How to spot a fake Facebook profile (infographic)

    @Rexxrally - Indeed. There are plenty of requests for people I know that I don't accept, that it's a no-brainer to can those I don't know.
  • RE: How to spot a fake Facebook profile (infographic)

    I cracked up laughing reading this. I will not accept or request a connection to man that is friends with Fake Women. They are pretty obvious.

    Nice infographic...Thank You.
    • RE: How to spot a fake Facebook profile (infographic)

      So many fake accounts, according to the latest 10-Q form filed on July 30th,

      Facebook is facing the real challenge not disclosed in its IPO filing. Slow user grower rate, ineffective Ads, lot of fake users etc. You should read its filing from top to bottom, and you may think - will it be another myspace?
      James Wn
  • Thanks, Barracuda Labs

    Thanks to this information from Barracuda Labs, I'll be able to hone my fake Facebook profiles to make them more realistic.

    Considering that Facebook is like a sieve when it comes to security of one's personal information, it is prudent to use ONLY fake profiles with fake data.
    Tony R.
  • Use common sense on Facebook.

    Facebook can be used as a valuable tool but I think anybody who friends people they don't know is an idiot. No hot girl is just going to randomly message a guy they don't know and its amazing to me that people fall for that. Most online privacy issues can be prevented by common sense. Particularly problematic for many people is seeing how they post personal information on social media, neglect to use privacy settings, and are surprised when their personal information is stolen weeks later. While you can be careful about what you post about yourself, you can't prevent other people from posting about you. Also problematic for people is how there are sites like where people post personal information about each that can't be removed. With Google making all of this information widely available, being vigilant about seeing what people can find out you is critical to maintaining your online reputation. Facebook can do a bit more to prevent people from accidentally messing up their own lives by encouraging more sensible defaults, but in the end people have to be smart about what they post about themselves online, and this doesn't solve all potential problems.
  • As much as I'd like to agree

    Some of the information is misleading, and meant for people that are scared that Facebook will give away their entire life. Facebook is generally meant for people you've already met or know, unlike former competitive sites like myspace. I meet new people all the time on Facebook, and its pretty simple to spot a fake profile.

    1/ Grainy pictures, poor quality, or just awkward pictures. You can't forget those FHM photoshoot images.

    2/ The latter one doesn't completely mean its fake, I've also met some pretty cool models online, one of which who was an entertainer, dancer, model, and a celloist? Lol but next and the most important thing is to use your best judgement based on their interactions with people on their profile. Are friends posting what they did over the weekend? Are there status comments from friends and family? Have they posted their location at a restaurant? You can clearly tell by these factors if its a fake profile because this is something that really can't be faked.

    This is where I think, as much as I love my generation, today is just sad.
  • How to Identify Fake People on Facebook

    I used the reverse image search to identify weather the profile is fake or real. know more on how to
    do reverse image search on google @
  • You can verify a profile with FB Checker

    There is always FB Checker. It might not be 100% accurate, but at least it's a good start and it’s free. It will check all photos that you select. Works similar to Google Images but it's a lot easier and faster because it focuses on Facebook profiles. You can get it from
    Daniel Statescu
  • Want to know more about Facebook Security??

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    Shanaya Sharma
  • Find Fake Profiles on Facebook