What the Tech? Facebook's problem of fake accounts & how to protect yourself

By now most of us are aware there are fake Facebook accounts and profiles but according to Facebook, the problem is much bigger than we can imagine. As the House Energy and Commerce Committee examines how Facebook and other platforms are meeting the challenge of deleting false information, the company released statistics of fake profiles and false information.

In the report, Facebook's VP of Integrity, Guy Rosen said the company blocked 1.3 billion fake accounts between October and December of 2020. Rosen further states that the platform discovers and blocks millions of fake accounts each day, most of them as they're being created.

Who's creating or trying to create all of these fake accounts? And why?

It's well known that scammers use fake Facebook accounts to connect with users and their friends to scrape personal information in an effort to steal identities. Fake account owners also reach out to anyone who's accepted their friend request to try and scam them out of money. A few years ago a scammer stole the profile picture of one of my aunts and sent me a few Facebook messages asking about the family. After a few minutes whoever was impersonating my aunt sent a website link saying I was due a great sum of money and that I should click it to learn more.

Foreign governments are also known to use fake profiles in order to share false information about American politics. There are also many reports of someone creating fake or anonymous accounts in order to spy on their ex.

While Facebook is getting better and identifying fake accounts, it is still possible. In order to create an account now an email address and phone number are required. Before the account is created the new user must respond with a code sent to the phone number they submitted. Or they can receive the message to the email address.

Of course, now it is easy to find places online and with apps where you can get a "burner phone number" or "burner email address." I managed to set up a fake account under an assumed name using a Google phone number in a matter of minutes.

Last year I spoke with a woman in North Carolina who accidentally discovered a fake account was using a photo of her children as a profile picture. She reported the account to Facebook and it was taken down.

What should you do to protect yourself from being connected to fake accounts? It's fairly simple: don't accept friend requests from someone you don't know in real life. If you get a request from someone you do know but also know you're already connected on Facebook, it is likely they've stolen that person's profile photo and set up a fake account using their name and information.

Report those accounts to Facebook and in addition to deleting the request, block the fake account from following you.

Facebook says it now has over 35,000 people worldwide fighting fake accounts and false information being posted to the platform.