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Kids' Phone Safety Blog

Spot Bots: How to Identify a Fake Friend Online

November 15, 2017

Modern children can’t imagine themselves without a digital world of popular social networks. The inherent part of being on social media is befriending a new person on Facebook or getting a couple more followers on Instagram or Twitter. Kids believe that a big number of virtual friends who “like” and comment their posts may speak for their popularity among peers. That’s why often teens accept friendship requests from anyone who sends it without even knowing them in person. However, not all the children realize how easy it is to become virtual “friends” with someone who isn’t even a real person at all – a bot, a fraudster or a predator, for example. Each of these fake friends on social media may be potentially hazardous to a kid. Knowing how to identify fake accounts online is essential for child’s security.

This article offers a few social media security tips on how to spot a fake friend and social bot profiles online.

robot girl

Source: Digital Trendswrong-ethics

Fraudulent Fake Profiles on Social Media

Besides being a mean of quick and easy communication, the World Wide Web also provides anonymity which, however, may be misused by all sorts of online fraudsters, scammers, and predators in their ill intentions. All they need is to create one or multiple fake online profiles on the popular social networks and try to befriend as many people as possible.

Here are some real friends VS fake friends statistics:

  • In average, fake profiles befriend as many as 726 users VS 130 users on “friends” lists of real people;
  • 43% of fake profiles never update their status on Facebook as compared to only 15% of real people who never do that;
  • Only 35% of fake profiles list their interests in contrast to 77% of real

The reason for various online fraudsters aiming exactly children as victims of their illicit activities is that kids are often more gullible and less experienced than grownups. The sooner parents teach their youngsters about various types of online fakers, the less the chances are for kids to fall for their scams. Here’s who children should beware of:

  • Identity thieves who aim to impersonate someone by stealing their sensitive information such as full name, home address, contacts or Social Security Number. They can get personal details having gained the trust of careless people, especially – children.
  • Spammers who spread malware or annoying ads through the messages or shared links. The more users the spammers manage to befriend, the more people may fall into their snare.
  • Scammers who mostly try to bilk other Internet users out of their money. They invent hundreds of new ways to attain their goal. Pretending to be someone’s friend or relative in a desperate need of money is one of their frauds.
  • Predators and stalkers who are especially dangerous as it is very easy for them to lure in a child by pretending to be their peer online and developing a closer bond.

To figure out if an online profile that sent a friendship request is fake or real, one should pay attention to details. The first thing to do is to check a profile photo through Google Images. If a picture appears to be a stock photo attached to several other profiles, almost definitely all of them are fakes. Lack of personal data, not specified interests, and a very low online activity could be the signs that give a con man away. Finally, if a person who contacted your kid, claims that they have mutual friends, one should better ask those friends to confirm a user’s personality.

robots hand

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Bot Profiles on Social Networks

Bots are fake identities algorithmically generated by a computer program. Often, they are remotely run by a person who automates their messages and some kinds of their activities. Lately, bots became widespread on most of the social platforms.

According to a recent 2017 study by the University of Southern California and Indiana University, there exist as many as 48 million active bot accounts on Twitter. It’s an equivalent to 15% of all active users of this network.

The reasons behind generating bot accounts online are similar to those behind creating various fraudulent profiles run by humans: spreading spam or malware, stealing personal data, enticing users into various online scams by sending noxious links. Besides, a large number of bot accounts exist to promote products online, to boost the popularity of certain people and their projects or web pages or to heat up society’s interest in trending topics.

How to Spot Social Media Bot Profiles?

  • To identify a bot online, all you need is attention and some observation. Bots are most likely given away by not what they post, but by the frequency of doing it. Low or zero online activity is one of the most evident signs.
  • As opposed to it, an abnormal and excessive online activity can be another red flag. Most people tend to stick to a usual daily cycle and are observed to post or comment whatever within reasonable hours from 7 am to midnight. In turn, bots may be active any time of the day, leaving tens of posts, comments, and tags, many of which may be incoherent or duplicate.
  • The trick of checking a profile photo of a supposed con user works for bots as well: if Google Images identifies a picture as a stock one, the chances are high that a profile is a bot.
  • Lack of a profile photo, unlisted interests and empty bio all speak for the bot accounts.
  • In Twitter and Instagram, the number of pages which a bot follows most definitely will exceed the number of its followers. On Twitter, bots usually get stuck at 2001 profiles they follow, as this is the limit, and one has to get at least 91% of this number (1820 people) following them back, to be able to move on.
  • Another way to spot a bot is to check if it has any interactions with other users. If you can’t notice any likes, comments, and shares to its posts, most certainly a profile is a fake.

How Can Parents Help Children not to Fall for Fake Profiles?

In the first place, educate your kid about various online fraudsters and possible risks that may follow. Being on the alert, a child would less likely miss the warning signs.

Insist on being able to control your kid’s Internet activity. Make it a routine to discuss their online interactions, especially with new people. Perceiving a parent as a trusted friend, a youngster will more likely open up about shady contacts.

A reliable parental monitoring app will help you to be aware of any possible dangers you kid may come across on the World Wide Web.

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