There are a lot of fake Facebook pages out there. At best, they waste your time and maybe try to sell some ads. At worst, they try to scam money and personal information from you. Here’s how to spot them.
Fake Facebook pages are a big problem. Just this month it turned out that the largest Black Lives Matter Facebook page was actually being run by a white guy in Australia named Ian who buys and sells domain names—and obviously Facebook pages—as a hobby. There are millions more out there doing everything from creating scam competitions to impersonating legitimate media organizations so let’s take a look at some of the ways you can figure out if a page you’re looking at is fake.
Look to See If a Page Is Verified
Facebook pages of public figures, media companies, and brands can get verified, which means Facebook has confirmed that the page is representing who it claims to. Almost every legitimate page takes the time and effort to do it. For example, the real Southwest Airlines Facebook page is verified. You can see that by the blue tick next to the page name.
On the other hand, the fake Southwest pages aren’t verified. They don’t have a blue tick.
Verification isn’t a perfect test, but it’s still a pretty good one. Most major brands and media organizations are verified. The problem is that only big brands and media companies can get verified; smaller brands aren’t eligible. Facebook can also make mistakes if someone submits a request with the right documents (real or fake). They verified How-To Geeek, a trademark infringing knockoff of our site, and we had to file a complaint to get it taken down.
Check the Name Closely
Facebook is pretty quick to whack pages that are violating trademarks. This means that scam Facebook pages need to use a workaround if they want to stay online. This fake Southwest Airlines page is a text book example.
If you look at the name you’ll notice two things:
- It’s spelled “South West” instead of “Southwest.”
- There’s a “.” at the end of Airlines.
These two tricks are incredibly common with Facebook pages that are trying to impersonate legitimate brands. By intentionally and subtly misspelling the name or adding a period at the end, they can avoid Facebook’s filters while fooling random people who don’t look too closely.
It’s the same with the How-To Geeek page. If you didn’t look too closely, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the extra “e” in the name.
Look at the Listing Category for the Page
Another place where fake Facebook pages often show their true colors is in the page category listing. Certain categories require the person setting up the page to supply a lot of real information—like addresses and phone numbers that are easily checked. Fake pages won’t have this information to submit.
The real Southwest Airlines page is listed as a Travel Agent. Something like airline or travel company also would not have been suspicious. The fake pages, however, are both listed as Communities (which seems to be a go-to category for fake Facebook pages).
If the category of a Facebook page doesn’t match up with what you think it should be, then there’s a good chance the page is a fake.
Check What Kind of Content the Page Is Posting
The biggest giveaway that a page is fake isn’t its name or whether or not it’s verified; it’s the kind of content it posts. The real Southwest Airlines page posts feel good news stories about their staff.
The fake one posts about competitions that seem too good to be true. It’s almost certainly a scam designed to harvest your personal data.
Similarly, if a fake Facebook page is impersonating a news organization or political group, they are likely to post videos that too neatly align with a specific viewpoint or run counter to the views the organization normally expresses. It’s easy to create fake news reports that look authentic, and Facebook pages are currently doing it in the run up to a contentious referendum in Ireland.
Be Suspicious If Pages Ask for Donations
A lot of fake Facebook pages also pop up in response to major crises or political events. The fake Black Lives Matter page collected more than $100,000 in donations. That’s a lot of money people thought they were giving to a cause they supported that actually ended up in an Australian bank account.
While there are legitimate Facebook pages out there that solicit donations, you have to be extra careful to verify that they are who they claim to be before donating. If you want to give to a specific organization or cause, you’re much better off doing it through their official website rather than through Facebook. It’s much much easier to fake a Facebook page than a legitimate website.
Facebook has a big fake page problem. It’s much easier for people to create fake pages than it is for Facebook to police them. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what a fake Facebook page looks like.