A new friend request appears on your Facebook account. Wait, who is this? No mutual friends, he/she doesn’t look familiar and is not from your city or state. But the picture is inviting—it’s either an attractive person smiling or a grandparent with grandkids. So you accept the request, thinking there’s no harm in adding one more friend.
The reality is, however, that hackers and spammers are operating that profile and once you accept, can begin flooding your account, manipulating your data and even cause your profile to be shut down. And it’s not just on Facebook—this exists on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and even job sites like Monster and Career Builder.
So what can you do? How do you prevent fake profiles from ruining your online reputation and adding excess stress to your digital platform?
The easiest and best place to start is with the image used for the suspect profile. Pull the pic to your desktop or “save image as.” Then do a reverse image search on Google, by dragging the photo into the box. Google will then tell you everywhere that that image has appeared online. For female photos, a lot of images are associated with adult websites.
There are also complete websites like fbchecker.com dedicated to helping you determine the validity of a profile.
If you get nowhere with the pic, move on to the personal information. Search the name along with the associated city and state and see what comes up. Does the person have a year and institution from which they graduated high school? Almost all high schools in America have digitized their yearbooks, and local genealogy societies have family histories and pictures of senior classes.
Still not getting anywhere? Then message him/her directly and ask why he/she wants to be your friend. On professional networks, users oftentimes are just trying to build their base and/or they want to flood your page with products and services.
Until you meet and shake hands with the new person, assume their profile to be fake as it relates to your livelihood.