Getting to know my fake Facebook friends

getting know fake facebook friends fakebook

It’s 5 a.m. and the blue glare of my iPhone screen has woken me up. So little happens at these ungodly hours (and I’m so stingy with notifications) that I find I rarely need to use my “do not disturb” setting.

Someone named Walter has requested to be my friend on Facebook. Normally I would hit the power button and toss my phone back to my night stand – but something makes me continue. I slide the screen and thumb in my password, fighting the sleepiness that’s cementing my eyes together.

I click to Howard’s page, and I find exactly what I’m looking for: A woman’s face as the profile picture, and a phrase that’s starting to haunt me.

“Never do something permanently stupid just because you are temporarily upset.”   

It’s the latest in a long line of strange, fake (they’ve got to be fake …) profiles requesting to be my friend. They each have a few things in common: Male names, female profile pictures, and one of two quotes.

We all get friend requests from strangers and even very obviously fake accounts, but there’s something too similar about this handful of them, and it’s maddening. The only thing left to do is find out as much as I can about them – and really, as any good Catfish watching American knows, that means I have to try and trace their profile pictures and anyone affiliated with them.

Carlos D Olive

carlos fake profileLike a couple of my other faux friend requests, Carlos studied at Andrews University. This, plus a profile picture, is all the information the account offers – though the popular phrase I’ve seen on several of these is here too.

“Never do something permanently stupid just because you are temporarily upset.” A quick search quotes it’s attributed to “unknown” but comes up in databases of quotations and idioms.

The Carlos D Olive account wasn’t started until October 18, just about a week ago. It gets weirder when I look at his friends and see he has non but is following a woman I have a mutual friend with.

Reverse image search shows the photo can be tied back to a photographer named Bill Jones, who does commercial and model photography. The woman in the shot is named “Amanda M.” – that’s all I know. It appears she shot with Jones back in 2009. I contacted Jones and asked about the photo.

Jason D Martinez

jason fbAnother man with a woman’s picture, another account started October 17, another quote posted the same day:

“Men are all alike in their promises. It is only in their deeds that they differ.” This one is attributed to Moliere.

Strangely, I see Jason is also tied to the same person as Carlos – the woman I have one friend in common with. Strange, but I’m moving on because this profile isn’t really getting me anywhere. Reverse image search ties the photo to a plethora of blogs (many of which appear run by people with Middle Eastern or Eastern European names). That’s all I can find though.

Howard M Fuller

howard fbHoward has the sae Moliere quote as Jason, and a picture of a pretty girl with dark hair. I just go immediately to reverse image search for this one. The first result takes me to the profile of someone named John Large, and I assume it’s going to be a fake profile like the ones I’m encountering.

Nope. It’s what appears to be a very average guy living in New Jersey – and it also leads to the Facebook profile of the lead writer at a sports site. I message both to ask them if they’ve ever seen the picture before. Both tell me they have no idea who this person is or why the photo leads to their accounts.

The photo appears to have originally come from a photographer’s site, and is labeled under senior portraits – and that’s as far as I get. 

Walter D Krueger

walter fbGuy’s name: Check. Woman’s photo: Check. Andrew’s University: Check. Quote:

“Never do something permanently stupid just because you are temporarily upset.”

Check.

This exact photo I actually can’t find anywhere else; I absentmindedly click on “Friends.” No friends, just the same woman who the other account was also following. I start checking out all the profiles; they’re all following her. I decide to message her and ask if she knows anything about all this. She doesn’t, saying she often gets strange friend requests but usually ignores them, as most of us do. Even though we haven’t added these accounts as friends, we still show up in their friends tab as people they follow; I wonder if rejecting their request also takes me off this follower list. I try – nope. I still show up there. 

following

Chad N Kimpel

chat fbAnother male name with a female photo – also listed as male in the About section. Chad also has the “Never do something permanently stuid just because you are temporarily upset” quote, posted on October 17, which is the day the account was started as well.

This photo yields tons of results; it appears to be one of the most popular stock images of red-headed woman out there, so you can imagine the plethora of lady mag articles that have used it.

After trying in vain to find it somewhere other than in articles about how being a redhead affects your genes or how to keep your dye job from fading, I try just Googling “natural redhead portrait.” This is the first picture that comes up. Tracking this down further is likely a dead end.

Still, I try and find an original upload on some semi-official site to see if there’s metadata info on who uploaded it. The Wikipedia image upload takes me to a Flickr account of the alleged original author. It’s a photographer named Dusdin Condren, and he has been a user for quite some time, so it’s possible he indeed is the photographer of this picture being used in a fake profile.

I contact Condren, and he says it is indeed his photo and he believes he took it in 2006 and it’s an actress named Crystal Verdon who was in a play he was directing.

Facebook doesn’t find a Crystal Verdon for me, but it does find a Crystal Verdon Eisele – who is also redheaded. And also looks exactly like Chad’s profile picture. And also is definitely the person in that picture.

I’ve sent her a message letting her know about the fake profile using her likeness. My guess is given how widely dispersed this photo is, she won’t care. 

So now what?

While I’ve gotten the odd confirmation from photographers that indeed, these photos are stolen, I still don’t know the answer behind this strange series of fake friends requests. I even contacted Facebook to try and send in a spam report, should this particular situation be a hoax or attack of some sort users should be on the lookout for. I heard nothing back. 

It’s eerie and it’s weird, and there’s no doubt these accounts are incredibly fake; and they’re not stopping. I have at least 20 requests right now from what are obviously spam profiles. I’ve gotten few answers, and way more questions. It’s so obnoxious that sometimes, oftentimes, I want to delete Facebook, leave it forever, and never even look back. Why am I doing this? Why do I even use Facebook? What’s the point?

But then I remember the one thing all of these profiles taught me: 

“Never do something permanently stupid just because you are temporarily upset.”

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