Spotting a Scam Account on Twitter

Cindy Otis

Meet Harrison. Harrison is “good, loving, caring, and kind hearted.” Harrison is also a fake account, though it might not look like it on first glance.

First, the alphanumeric username isn’t a giveaway on its own. Lots of people keep the name they’re assigned.

The fact that the account was created recently isn’t necessarily a problem either. People join and leave Twitter every day.

There’s also the fact that Harrison appears to converse with people beyond the normal “Hello” and “Pretty” scammers use to start conversations. In the below, he even extends a friendly greeting to someone like he knows them. “Thanks Suzanne happy sunday,” he says. He even gets the day of the week right.

Harrison can also post something and make a relevant comment. Quote tweeting a video of a baseball game, Harrison says, “Years ago I played”. Harrison’s got hobbies!

He’s also got political views. You can’t charge the president, Harrison says Q-tweeting a post about Democrats wanting to charge the president while he is in office. You can’t charge the President because “the president is still one of the top men,” Harrison explains. “Great man,” replies Rose26928685.

So where are the signs this guy’s a fake? Well, let’s start with Rose!

Rose is also a “good loving caring and kind hearted” person… without Harrison’s knowledge of commas, apparently. She follows 191 men out of 191 total follows. She’s also got fewer thoughts, instead leaving comments like “Great” “Nice” “Great” and “Great man”.

The only account Rose follows that isn’t a man is a fake Fox News account — Fox_News_hUSA that has all of 16 followers and sports the Fox News logo as its profile picture.

Now, back to Harrison. Harrison follows 915 people, all but about two of them women. Next, if you look at Harrison’s posts, but also his replies, you find a lot of them are the same two words: “Nice one”. Not a red flag all on its own (even with the account creation date, the alphanumeric handle, or the followers). Real accounts don’t always have to write tome-like threads. So let’s keep going.

As we’re scanning through his replies, we come across this one. In response to a video showing an octopus, Harrison responds: “Is it inside aquarium it clean is this tour favorite on water?”

Now, broken English is not a red flag on its own. English is a second, third, fourth, etc. for most people using it on Twitter. And let’s face it — most native English speakers are not masters of their language. But this is altogether something else. Clearly the translation app had a meltdown.

We’ve got one more step to go. That is, doing a reverse image search on his profile picture.

Once you do, you find multiple picture of “Harrison” pop up. Not altogether weird. Search yourself and you’ll find the same. The difference is where the pictures are being used and how. You see, the profile pic for “Harrison” on Twitter is used in accounts on dating sites all over the world. Harrison is “Jeff Barker” on a Russian site, “Silver” on a Chinese site, and “Henry Smith” on a US site.

These kinds of scam accounts are almost always meant to catfish vulnerable individuals. They follow as many of the opposite gender as they can without raising red flags to the platform. Then they attempt to contact the people who follow them back. Most of the people behind these accounts are attempting to convince vulnerable people to send them money via gift cards or money transfers.

At this stage, your next move should be to first REPORT the fake account. Then block, if you feel so inclined. You might already be a pro at spotting these accounts, but many people are not and might just get sucked in by Harrison and the thousands of accounts like him. Spotting and reporting arehow we can help keep social media platforms cleaner for everyone.

Cindy Otis

Written by

Former CIA analyst & White House Intel briefer. Author of TRUE OR FALSE: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Fake News. Bylines:NYT, CNN, USAT, etc. Twitter:@CindyOtis_.

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