How to Identify an Impostor Facebook Page

When I wrote on 5 Reasons Why You Should Pay More Attention to Facebook and Digital Literacy Kwashiorkor In The Age Of Social Media, little did I know that circumstances will warrant me to write about yet another issue associated with the Facebook. In this, write up, I intend to outline three quick approaches to determine the credibility of a Facebook page. This is because sharing unsubstantiated post to the gullible public may tend to make the ‘sharer’ lose credibility or exposed the person as naive once people began to realise how unreliable and untrustworthy your posts tend to always look like.

This piece was motivated by a Facebook friend who shared a post by one Facebook page called NYSC online. The Facebook page in question is asking:

“Are you an Ex-Corp Member between the year 2000–2016? APPLY NOW — FG Set to Pay N75,000 to Ex NYSC Corp Members (2000–2016)”.

The person who shared the post was asking about the credibility of the story. On seeing his request, I quickly went to the Facebook page, and I realised even the page shared the story from one supposedly online newspaper called ‘WORLDWIDENNEWS.com. As at the time of penning this piece, the story was shared 1,595 times and liked by 717 followers with 284 comments.

While the story is too good to be true, I quickly observed three fundamental qualities missing from the Facebook page which illustrate something fishy about it which form the basis of this article.

  1. While it is not every genuine Facebook page is being verified with a blue badge, a good social media practice suggests public and private organisations would want Facebook to verify them thereby confirming to the public that this page is an official page. As such, the first credibility test for every serious Organisation is to have a blue verified page. In this regard, the Facebook page in question has not been verified. Hence, the next step for finding whether it is still a credible Facebook page.

2. Once the Facebook page does not have the blue verified badge, the next step is to search the name of the Organization in the Facebook search box. In this regard, it is possible to have several pages and groups with the same name or name similar to it. In our case, by putting ‘NYSC’ in the search bar, we got three different Facebook pages. The first page called National Youth Service Corps — NYSC has 173, 971 likes, the second page called NYSC 2017 Service Year has 8, 988 likes while the last one called NYSC Online has 30, 014 likes. Since none of these pages is Facebook verified, the next step is to read the about section of every page that appeared as a result of your search.

3. In this step, you will be looking at whether the admins provide a brief overview of the organization, its physical address, geolocation, office phone number, official email address, links to other social media handles, link to the main web page of the organization as well as closing and opening hours. In some circumstances, credible Facebook pages used to indicate that admins will reply to your inquiry typically within an hour. In the case of the web Page in question, the only thing written in the about section is the name ‘NYSC Online’ and category in which the Organisation belong — ‘Media/News Company’. This further indicates there is something fishy about the website.

However, on comparing the page in question to the first page that appeared on our result output — National Youth Service Corps — NYSC — we realised it was the official Facebook page. We came to this conclusion even though the page is not verified by Facebook because the official web page written in the about section linked to the main web page of the NYSC and on the same web page, the embedded Facebook page linked back to the Facebook page as shown below.

The above steps provide an easy guide to spotting an impostor Facebook page, but in the next paragraphs, I will provide a simple guide on why the post in question is untrustworthy.

Several scholars and web pages provide a checklist for supporting the credibility of any website which includes among others web address, the ability for the site to indicate its physical address, contacts numbers as well as 3rd party endorsements. Other credibility elements include flawless grammar, links to photos, names and date stamp of the writers among others.

In the case of the post in which is urging past NYSC Corp members to apply, I followed the website of the supposedly online newspaper. The web address is www.worldwidennews.com, and the name of the paper is WorldWideNNews which by more careful reading is different from the World Wide News which suggest something fishy. Secondly, the name of the reporter was cleverly replaced with admins. Thirdly, the entire story is a two paragraph story as shown below.

From the preceding, one will realise the story says the finance minister stated the FG has started paying during Youth Empowerment Submit without venue or date and her special assistant disclosed even that. The story ended without indicating where, when and how to apply.

Lastly, on checking the about page, it states:

As such, one shall always be careful with the type of news s/he shares and believed.