Spotting Facebook Bots

Don’t inadvertently help these scammers take advantage of your friends.

I am the administrator of four different Facebook groups. There’s The View from a Drawbridge, which I created to promote the posts on this blog; Drawbridge Lovers, which posts pictures of drawbridges from around the world, and has attracted a lot of bridgetenders and enthusiasts; Public Art Lovers which posts a lot of amazing murals and statues and the like from everywhere you can think of; and a group for my little free library which mostly consists of members from the neighborhood.

I really do enjoy these groups. I’ve met a lot of fascinating people thanks to them. I’ve learned a great deal. It’s a pleasure seeing what people come up with to post from one day to the next.

There is one downside. Facebook bots. I hate Facebook bots.

These fake Facebook profiles come from automated software. It will steal pictures and information from outside sources to make it look like a legitimate human being to the untrained eye. In fact, the nefarious person behind this profile is most likely running hundreds of these profiles at once, so they don’t really have time to actually show much human activity on the Facebook page in question.

The way these bots acquire more legitimacy is through those trusting souls on Facebook who are motivated by numbers. Some people running groups want these groups to look as popular as possible, so they’ll accept anyone (or any bot) into the group who asks. And a lot of people also accept any friend request that they receive. When I see people with 2000 friends, I always ponder the absurdity of that, and also think they are taking undue risks with their privacy. And if you friend a bot, and that bot sends a friend request to one of your real friends, that friend may say, “Hey, this is a friend of Barb’s, so they must be okay.”

The more friends and groups these bots acquire, the more “real” they look to people. And that’s evil, because the motivation behind these bots is malicious at the best of times. The more legit these bots seem, the more likely you’ll accept them as a friend, and the more likely they will steal your identity. If they hack into your Facebook page, they can start sending messages to your friends, pretending to be you. One favorite type of message is, “Hey, my car broke down! Can you loan me some money for the repair?” If they’re pulling this caper with 100 bots at the same time, they’re bound to come across a few gullible people.

Bots can also hack into your account and start advertising the sale of sunglasses or whatever. Or, another popular one is posting on your page: “Hey, I just got a free gift card from Starbucks! Click here and you can, too!” Then your friends fill out the information and their identity is stolen. They can also post links that will send you to sites that will give your computer malware.

So, how do you spot a bot? It’s really not that hard if you’re paying attention. If someone sends you a friend request or asks to join your group, look at their profile page. Some things that many bots have in common are:

  • If they post a picture on their profile, it’s almost always someone who is very attractive.
  • They also often seem to have an exotic name.
  • They rarely list a job, but they almost always post what school they claim to have attended.
  • The only posts they have on their page are either updates of their profile pictures and nothing else, or a whole lot of posts on one theme (for example, artwork if they’re targeting art groups and artists) with zero comments from friends or family.
  • The rare, sophisticated bot has comments, but they often have nothing to do with the post, or they make no sense at all.

Do not get used. Don’t prop up the credibility of these bots by friending them or allowing them to be a member of your group. If you spot one on your list that snuck past you on a more trusting day, remove them. Trust me, you won’t be hurting their feelings. They have no feelings to hurt.

Also, if you are operating a group, definitely take advantage of the ability to ask people questions before granting membership. Make them questions that require more than a yes/no response. Ask them what one plus seven plus three equals. A bot can’t answer that. (Yet.) Have a strict no response/no admittance policy.

In these increasingly desperate times, scammers abound. Don’t help them take advantage of people. Be safe and savvy. The picture below is of a typical bot. Attractive, with friendly looking posts, but no real signs of life. Join me in kicking this bot to the curb!

I’m not a bot. I wrote a book. Check it out!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

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