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You open up your Facebook or Twitter and see that this pretty girl (who seems to be “well-endowed” and doesn’t mind showing it off) has requested to follow you or be your friend. As an optimistic and friendly person, you accept the request without so much as a second thought. In Twitter, you might even follow them back. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a bit actually, as this enticing female could be no more than a mere spambot. What could be worse is if you don’t identify the signs early on, you might end up clicking on something that will send you to ads, a phishing site, or a malicious site that could exploit security holes and take control of your system.
OK, so that might be a tad dramatized (although in all technicality it is possible), but you don’t want to take your chances or fill up your friends/followers list with junk accounts. So what can you do to determine whether you’re just seeing a spambot or an actual person?
Who Are Their Friends Or Followers?
The quickest and easiest way to find out whether you’re lucky or just being spammed is by looking at their own friends/followers. In the case of Twitter, you’ll need to look at the ratio of people the account is following and people following the account. If the account is following a bunch of accounts — and I mean hundreds of them — but is only being followed by 20 or less, then the chances are high that you’re dealing with a spambot.
In the case of Facebook, you’ll have a bit less to work with. The most effective metric to look at is the amount of mutual friends you two have. If the list of mutual friends is small and composed of friends who seem gullible enough to follow “sexy” spambots, then you’re most likely looking at a spambot. Then again, if you have no mutual friends, you’ve never laid eyes on this person before, and they have thousands of friends, be wary too.
What Are They Saying?
Another item you can look at is their post or tweet content. You’re probably dealing with a spambot if:
- If the account does have a lot of posts, they offer a lot of “too-good-to-believe” items, deals, and diets
- The account expresses erratic tweet behavior or the tweets don’t convey much meaning
- The account has a measly amount of followers and yet mentions a different user in every tweet
- It’s using an ungodly amount of hashtags, especially very generic ones
- If one or more of the above is true, and the account is relatively new with few posts.
On the other hand, chances are very high you’re dealing with an actual person if the person actually holds coherent conversations with other people (via mentions on Twitter or via walls on Facebook). If they still share a good amount of questionable links, then they may be a real person who is just clicking on spam links themselves and letting those web apps connect to their account.
This research is a bit easier to do on Twitter than it is on Facebook, as spambots will want their Twitter profiles to be public and easily accessible. On Facebook, you might be dealing with an account set to private while you’re doing your research, which limits the amount of information you can get before friending the person.
Spambots Don’t Behave Like People
Ultimately, when you’re doing your research on a person, the generalized rule is to see if they behave like any other person would on Facebook/Twitter/etc. If the account doesn’t do normal things — for example, they don’t hold conversations, they keep sharing spam links, or they don’t upload a normal-quality image of themselves — then you have the right to be suspicious. Accounts with no profile image at all should be especially suspicious if you don’t know them personally.
And, if you can’t immediately determine whether they’re real or fake, there’s no rush for you to accept or deny a friend/follow request. Just let it sit a little longer and see how the account continues to behave.
If you’re worried about your email address falling into the hands of spambots, here are 6 precautions you can take to prevent it.
What’s the trickiest spambot you’ve dealt with, and how did you find out they weren’t real? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk