Fake Facebook accounts of MPs: How to tell phony FB pages from real ones

One of the signs a page is real: The blue tick of authentication from Facebook.
One of the signs a page is real: The blue tick of authentication from Facebook.SCREENSHOT: FACEBOOK/TIN PEI LING

SINGAPORE - When someone familiar requests to add you on Facebook, do you simply click yes?

Fake accounts impersonating at least 13 Singapore MPs surfaced this week, and were deleted shortly after the MPs were alerted to them by grassroots leaders and residents.

The faking of accounts using political figures appears to be a new trend, said Mr Ryan Flores, senior manager of forward-looking threat research at Trend Micro Asia Pacific.

Previously, celebrities were the ones being impersonated, he added.

In this case, the accounts had names and photos which mirrored that of the MPs', so how can one tell a real account from a fake one?

There are no silver bullets, but here are five tips from experts:

1. Look out for the blue tick

Facebook pages for public figures that have been verified to be authentic have a blue check mark. This is a sign that the page is legitimate.

2. Check when the account was created

Another step you can take is to check the creation date of the Facebook profile or page.

"If the join date in Facebook is fairly recent, along with the lack of a blue tick, these are strong indicators of a fake account," said Mr Flores.

 

3. Account or page?

One of the MPs affected, Ms Tin Pei Ling, said the fake account was not a Facebook page.

A profile on Facebook is a personal account while a page usually represents a business, organisation or a public figure.

4. Look at the e-mail address linked to the account

IT security expert Vincent Tay's advice is to check the e-mail address the Facebook account is registered under.

The name and photo can be easily duplicated or found online, and content can be posted if the person impersonating the account is sufficiently motivated, said the founder of Tech Security.

If it looks like a friend who has asked to add you, check that the e-mail in the account is one that he or she has contacted you with before.

5. Beware of solicitations

Be suspicious of messages asking for personal information or money, even if they appear to come from a friend.

"I think it would be wise for politicians to promote and advertise their official accounts only, and include in their public messages that they won't ask for donations or ask their network to visit webpages through direct messages," said Mr Flores.