Some indications that a facebook profile might be fake

Some people use fake facebook profiles to stalk or harass other people.

Here are some things that are red flags for a fake profile:

Having very few friends:

  • Most Facebook users friend mostly people they know in person, or friends of friends
  • If someone doesn’t friend anyone they know, it’s suspicious – it’s possible that they don’t know anyone because they aren’t actually a real person.
  • That’s not an absolute indicator. While it is unusual, some people create Facebook profiles in order to interact with strangers. (Some of those people use pseudonyms in order to maintain their privacy. That’s not the same as a fake account).
  • It’s also fairly common for people to friend people they know and people they don’t know. People who do this usually have a lot of Facebook friends.
  • People who friend strangers generally friend a lot of strangers. If they’re only friending you and a couple of other people, that’s suspicious. It suggests that the account is about getting access to you, rather than finding people to talk to.
  • This is particularly the case if they still have very few friends weeks after friending you.

Having suspicious clusters of friends:

  • If there are six people who are all friends with each other and each profile has hardly any other friends, they may all be fake profiles created to make the primary fake profile look more realistic
  • Being a person who friends strangers but has few friends is suspicious in itself. A cluster of people who have hardly any friends is *extremely* suspicious.
  • This is particularly the case if the accounts were all created at around the same time
  • (Again, especially if some of the accounts are claiming to be college alumni in their 20s – it’s very unusual for people who really are in that group to create a profile *after* college. If a whole cluster does that, it’s suspicious).

Undue interest in you:

  • If someone is showing way more interest in you than would be expected between strangers, it’s suspicious
  • It’s an indication that the person talking to you might be someone you know who you don’t want to talk to. (Especially if they’re using unusual idioms you associate with that person).
  • Also if they seem to share *all* of your interests and have very few interests that you don’t share.
  • Especially if they’ve joined hard-to-find groups that you created.
  • It’s a red flag for other things too; people who decide that you are emotionally close before you’ve actually established a relationship are dangerous.

Claims about college that don’t match their profile

  • People who went to college almost always have friends from that college.
  • This is particularly the case for people in their 20s.
  • If someone claims to have gone to a school and has no or very few friends from that school, it’s suspicious.
  • (It’s not an absolute indicator).
  • If you call the alumni office, you can ask if a person with that name ever went to that school, and they are generally willing to tell you.
  • If the alumni office tells you that no one by that name went there, it’s a very strong indicator that the account is fake, especially in combination with other factors.


  • People usually post pictures of themselves on facebook.
  • It’s suspicious if they don’t.
  • Particularly if they post pictures of other things
  • (But not an absolute indicator – some people do this for innocent reasons, or to protect their privacy)
  • If their pictures seem unduly familiar, or have unusual objects you recognize, take that seriously. Even if you’re not sure why it feels that way.

Staying on topic

In a lot of situations, it’s useful to stick to a narrow topic.

Sometimes, this is true even where there is a broad range of somewhat related important topics that the narrow topic reminds you of.

It can be tempting to deviate. For instance, a blog about explaining why particular patterns are sexist might be inclined to make a lot of signal boost posts aimed at helping to pass a ballot measure aimed at preventing state university tuition rates from rising. This might seem like a good idea because, for instance, high tuition rates make it harder for single mothers to go back to school and still afford daycare.

And signal boosting is a good thing. A vital thing. But sometimes doing it too much can harm discussions.

Because signal boosting can also drown things out. Things that need to be said. And a topic blog isn’t a personal blog. Staying on topic is important to saying things that need saying, especially when the things are hard to say. 

Forums can be like that too. For instance, if you’re running a forum that’s about how to communicate with autistic people, it’s important not to let it devolve into a debate about whether Obamacare is good for autistic folks. That is an important discussion to have, but it’s also important that it not be the only discussion that happens.

Many things that should and must be discussed can’t all be discussed at once, and separating where and when they are discussed can make it possible for them all to be heard and discussed seriously.