RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — Fake social media accounts are on the rise. Everyone, from big brands to celebrities to ordinary citizens, is being hacked.
It’s a growing trend as criminals look for additional ways to find new victims.
Internet scammers are working overtime on social media to create fake accounts. They often pretend to be ordinary people.
“They go to great lengths to reverse engineer who your friends are and create a profile so it looks legit,” said cybersecurity expert Craig Petronella. He has written several books on hacking.
Recently, consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia fell victim to a fake Twitter account claiming to be his business account.
The fake account used a photo of him that had been stolen from the internet and had a fake CV, listing several TV stations where Sbraccia allegedly worked. None were true.
The fake Twitter account also falsely claimed he was a West Virginia alum. It contained a photo of a couple of albino tigers and proclaimed them animal lovers.
Meanwhile, his real Twitter account makes it clear that he doesn’t put any personal information on his work account — it’s strictly for topical tweets.
What do these scammers get through identity theft? Petronella said it was simple.
“The motive is that bad actors are cheating on your friends,” he said.
Specifically, they use fake social media accounts to trick you into revealing information such as personal information, credit card numbers and other data that can be used to steal money.
You are the first line of defense in keeping a fake social media account offline.
“What everyone has to do is constantly search their name on social media and Google to make sure all that comes up is you,” Petronella said.
Fake accounts are a problem on all platforms. Facebook deleted 1.3 billion fake accounts in 2021. Instagram found 95 million and Twitter processed 20 million.
In Sbraccia’s case, he went straight to Twitter to deal with the fake account.
He clicked on these three dots on the top right photo of the fake account. This brought up a page that gives a list of options. One of them is “someone is impersonating me”.
Shortly after this report was sent, Twitter responded via email asking Sbraccia to upload the documentation because they wanted to be sure he wasn’t a scammer trying to delete the real account.
This documentation included uploading a government-issued ID to prove he was legit.
Several hours later, Twitter replied that the fake account had been deleted.
Twitter support too offers a webpage.
Facebook and Instagram have similar systems that allow you to report fake accounts. For Facebook, you can access information on its web page regarding fake accounts. It also has a link to report a counterfeit account.
Although Instagram is owned by Facebook, it has a separate web page where fake accounts can be reported. This page also contains advice on what to do about an offending account.
You should also report counterfeits to the FBI’s Internet Crime Center, especially if you’ve lost money to a social media scammer. The FBI has the resources to hunt these criminals.