11 Easy Ways To Spot a Fake Twitter Account Instantly
BY: Chris Makara
Aug 12, 2013
Home > Blog > 11 Easy Ways To Spot a Fake Twitter Account Instantly

Not surprisingly, some reports say that there are as many as 20 million fake Twitter accounts. With a reported 500 million registered users, that comes out to roughly 4% of all Twitter accounts being fake (bots).

While I use social media management tools to easily clean up my stream, at times I like to see how easy it is to spot a fake Twitter account. When you are growing your Twitter account, it is important to pay attention to those you are following. While there are some obvious tell-tale signs, some users are making it tougher to decipher if they are real or fake.

I know there are sites that supposedly can do this for you, but what is the fun in that? Here are some of the things I look for when determining whether or not a Twitter account is fake.

1. They Are An Egghead

Literally. By egghead, I am referring to the Twitter user in question not taking the time to upload a profile image. Most real people will upload some sort of profile image. While not every egghead is a fake or bot account, this is typically a sign of a lazy person. Or a bot. You decide.

2. They Use Stock Profile Images 

While this move might be a step up from being an egghead, most fake accounts get this wrong. They either use stock images or a profile image shared by other fake accounts.

[PRO TIP] Use Google to find out if a profile image has been used by others.

To do this you can right click on the profile image and copy the link location. Then simply go to Google Images and search by URL. Paste the URL and find out if others are using this same image.

[BONUS TIP] Narrow down your search to just Twitter results by added “site:twitter.com”. For example, see how many times this Twitter profile image is used by others.

3. No Bio 

An empty Twitter bio is almost a dead giveaway that the profile you are looking at is a dud. This underutilized real estate is key to informing your followers (or potential followers) who you are and what you’re about. Skipping over this is typically a sign of not only laziness, but a tell-tale sign the account is almost certainly fake.

4. Excessive Duplicate Tweets

While this does not run rampant like it previously did, if you see a profile’s stream that is all the exact same or very similar tweets, chances are that you are viewing a fake account.

Most notably, if the tweets are all @replies with the same text, you have found a bot account.

While there is no doubt some excessive self promotion on Twitter, some accounts constantly tweet the same thing. Odds are a human is not behind each of those tweets, and better yet it is a sign of someone who does not use automation effectively.

5. Confusing Screen Name / URL Combination

This is an easy one. There are multiple things to look for in a screen name. The first is if you see the profile URL as something like “twitter.com/john-smith” but when you view the profile, the first and last name listed above the bio has no relation to the URL.

For example, it would say something like “Sarah Jones” which obviously has no direct relation to “John Smith” that is in the URL.

The other red flag regarding screen names and URL combinations is if you see an incoherent URL like “twitter.com/kaywhyeleenq”. Viewing this URL you will see that while this profile has many red flags, the first and last name listed in the profile has no direct relation to the URL.

While, not all profiles will have a direct relation, most of the time if the URL does not even contain legitimate words or phrases, it is a common sign the profile was automatically generated via software and not a human.

6. Incoherent Tweets

Most of the time fake Twitter accounts simply spew off tweets that directly benefit themselves, like linking directly to their site. However, there are many fake accounts that simply post gibberish or random incoherent thoughts that make absolutely no sense.

7. Has Not Tweeted in Years

Back in the earlier, wild-west days of Twitter, automation was manipulated quite a bit. However, as Twitter has evolved their API access and rules, previous bots and some of their automation no longer work.

An easy way to spot this is in accounts that have not tweeted in months or even years. Looking at the time stamp of the most recent tweets, you can get a good idea of the Twitter account is no longer active. For example, the Twitter account in the image above has not tweeted since 2011.

8. Follows 2,001 People 

Twitter has limits on certain things you can do. For example, how many people you can follow. This limit is set to 2,000. Once you follow 2,001 people, you must have at least 2,000 people following you back before you can exceed the 2,001 limit.

A common limitation of bots is that they are not smart enough to manage their following restrictions to get around this limitation. Therefore, many fake accounts get stuck on following 2,001 users.

Once an account gets past the 2,001 following limitation, then I believe the unwritten rule is that you can follow 10% more than are following you. So if your account has 2,000 users following it, then theoretically you can follow approximately 2,200 users.

9. No Interaction With Others 

Accounts that show no signs of interaction with others are often fake accounts. Social media is meant to be a two-way conversation. Those accounts who simply do not interact with others is often a sign of a bot account.

The quick way to find out if there is interaction with other users is to simply view recent tweets by the user. If you can see that within their last 20-30 tweets there are no @replies or retweets, chances are the account you are looking at is automated/fake.

 10. No or Low Follower Counts

Another common sign of a bot account is an account that does not tend to have anyone following the account back. This is commonly seen with accounts that are following 2,001 users but only have a handful of accounts following back.

While there are a number of reasons someone may not want to follow an account, chances are in this case it is due to the account not being worth one to follow. Twitter users are becoming smarter at whether or not someone deserves to be followed back.

Ensure your account gains followers by being active, sharing, and interacting with your followers.

11. An Unrealistic Amount of Tweets

No doubt automation has its place in Twitter when used responsibly. However, a sure sign of an automated/fake account is typically an insane amount of tweets that is more than likely not humanly possible.

I mean, who has the time to tweet 123, 684 times? In the image above you can see how tweeting this often did wonders for increasing the amount of followers for this account.

Your Turn

There you have it, my 11 tips on how to spot a fake Twitter account. Do you use any of these methods? What did I miss? Be sure to sound off in the comments below on your favorite tips on spotting fake Twitter accounts.

Chris Makara

Chris Makara

I have over 12 years of experience in Interactive Marketing & Digital Strategy, with a focus on SEO, Social Media & Demand Generation. I am an avid Football Fan, Golf Enthusiast & Ambidextrous Bowler. I can also be found on Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Chris Makara
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39 thoughts on “11 Easy Ways To Spot a Fake Twitter Account Instantly

  1. OfficeVP

    Great article. These follower-bots are created to act like real person following other users, writing tweets and retweet content. You’ve seen the more obvious follower-bots on Twitter, but the black market creating them are getting more advanced. Spotting a follower-bot can be nearly impossible. They steal information from real person accounts to make them look real. Buying followers is always a bad idea they don’t build engagement, and they don’t do your brand any good.

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara

      I agree. The blackhat market is usually a step or two ahead of most when it comes to gaming the system. Once they get caught, they look for newer, more creative ways to do it. Bot account scrapers are also a good one as you noted. One way to spot these is to view the bio of accounts, run a search and see who else has the exact same bio.
      Yep, buying followers does no good as most are always fake accounts.
      Thanks for the great comment, I appreciate it!

      Reply
  2. Scott

    Chris, A correction on the stuck at 2000 following. You need to have 91% or 1820 to follow more than 2000. Been there. Otherwise, very informative for people. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Ursula V

    Can a fake twitter account find a way to fake calendar dates? There is one I reported as spam, as I think I know where it originated. It had 100 tweets going back 6 months and all the signs you mention. What I m wondering is could someone fake the dates. Because, if it is who I think itvis, the activity would be starting only a month ago.

    Reply
  4. Ursula V

    Chris, I can’t figure out how to link it @Mexicanacivist . However, on the right side of this acct, right above tweet activity, there is a round blocked symbol, with a red line diagonally across it. Either Twitter blocked @Mexicanactivist, or my “marked as spam” action blocked it. Or it means they are just blocked from me. I don’t know. Interesting, 24 hours after I joined Twitter with an acct, my acct. was suspended. No rules broken, think it was a glitch. I appealed and they reinstated in 24 hours.

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara

      I looked at the account and I do not see the blocked symbol. If I block them, then I see it saying “blocked” where it typically would say follow/following.
      Yeah, Twitter has been known to block/ban new accounts frequently at times. The good news is that you can get reinstated most of the time…especially if you did not do anything wrong.

      Reply
  5. Harold Compton

    Chris, Thanks for the handy tool to check followers. Some of the things you mentioned I was aware of but you gave some new ones that will help me.

    Reply
  6. G. Wayne Clayton

    Chris, love the article…very helpful. In the last 3 days ai have had a rash (in a bad sense) of followers who all have 15K – 45K posts, but have 3 times as many following as they do followers. Thats not so shocking, but then I noticed they all seem to post and retweet from the same people on the same day.

    My spidey sense is tingling telling me fake IMO. I block people when I think they are fake. Whats your thoughts: let it roll or just block now?

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara

      Thanks for stopping by Wayne. Briefly looking at this account, I do suspect it uses quite a bit of automation and did not appear to have any @replies – just RT’s which can be automated as well.

      Not that using automation is bad, it’s just that you do need to mix in some real interaction. I did not see it with this account…so I would tend to agree with you. So unless you see that they are sharing stuff that aligns with what you are interested in, you can probably unfollow them as it doesn’t look like they are doing too much engagement.

      Reply
  7. Karen

    Good article, Chris. I’ve had a rash of fake followers recently, that share many of the attributes you’ve listed above, plus a few others:

    * The profile image is invariably a “hot babe” pic, often in a bikini or a tight t-shirt.

    * They never, ever RT. Real people RT, at least occasionally. I estimate about half of my tweets are RTs, because I follow a lot of people who are smarter than I am, and when they tweet interesting things, I like to share them with my followers. If you never RT, then you’re effectively saying that no one else’s tweets are worth passing on – and few real people would say that.

    * They steal tweets from other accounts. Pick a tweet of theirs that sounds like it might be an original thought, do a search on it, and invariably you find the identical tweet (misspellings, bad punctuation and all) has been tweeted by many other accounts, almost all of them equally fake-looking.

    What puzzles me is why these fake accounts bother to follow anyone who doesn’t buy followers. Perhaps I’m missing something, but what’s in it for them? Are they hoping I’ll follow them back? If so, they’re wasting their time, because on the contrary, my instinct is to block them. It’s not that I’m worried that anyone will think I’m buying followers if I leave them be – the fake accounts make up only about 2% of my followers. But I don’t want them stealing my tweets and passing them off as their own, so I’m inclined to block them.

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara

      Good points Karen. I’ve used search like you mentioned to find fake followers as well…can’t believe I left that one of the list!

      I think one reason they follow people is so that when people sell the 1000 follower packages or whatever it makes the accounts look less fake to the people who buy them.

      Reply
      1. Karen

        A couple of other comments:

        * Be careful of jumping to conclusions with #5. A URL without any real words could be fake, but not necessarily. On its own, it’s not enough to call the account a fake. My Twitter handle is @kcIMT122, and even though it looks like nonsense, it’s legit, and it’s meaningful to me. It contains the code of the course I was taking when I opened the Twitter account. One of the course requirements was that we join Twitter. I didn’t expect to hang around long – my first tweet was something like “Unimpressed by this Twitter thing. As soon as the course is over, I’m outa here” – so I certainly wasn’t going to put anything close to my real name in my Twitter handle. 31,000 tweets later, I’m still on Twitter. With 300+ followers, grown the slow way. 🙂 If I’d known I was going to stick around so long, I probably would have chosen something more meaningful, but I can’t be bothered changing it now.

        A contradictory URL is much more of a red flag, as in your Sarah Jones / John Smith example.

        * I haven’t had a lot of success with the tools that scan your followers and try to detect the fakes. Only yesterday, I identified eight definitely fake followers, for the reasons I mentioned above (all had HotBabe profile pics, no RTs, and stolen tweets) and a few of your reasons (stock or stolen profile pics, no interaction with other people). Before blocking them manually, I decided to run Twitblock. It found none of these fake followers, and instead gave me a few false positives – people it thought were fake, but who are real. So it seems the fake account creators are still a few steps ahead of these tools, and anyone relying on the tools would be making a mistake. And besides, as you said, finding and blocking fake followers manually is more fun anyway!

        Reply
      2. Karen

        I forgot to say: one more “how to spot a fake” tip to add to your list:

        * A Twitter bio that uses one of these words: “geek”, “nerd”, “maven”, “aficionado”, “ninja”, “guru”, “fanatic”, or “evangelist”, and one of “coffee”, “beer”, or “bacon”.

        Often in bizarre and interchangeable combinations. Fake Twitter Account A’s bio will say “Coffee maven. Beer ninja. Bacon aficionado.” Fake Twitter Account B’s bio will say “Beer evangelist. Bacon geek. Coffee guru.” And on it goes. Blockety block.

        Reply
  8. Ribu Roby

    good article but Can’t agree with point number six, because I am using links to my blog in most of my tweets. does that mean I am fake???
    Yes also promoting articles which benefits me somewhat. does that mean I am fake???

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara

      I think you misread it 🙂 #6 says “Incoherent Tweets” and the second sentence says:

      “However, there are many fake accounts that simply post gibberish or random incoherent thoughts that make absolutely no sense.”

      So this point is referring to people tweeting things just just don’t make sense or read properly. Posting tweets with a link is perfectly acceptable.

      Reply
  9. almark

    I would say twitter is full of much more than 4%, more like 50% are fake. I kid you not, there are so many who are not even human.

    Reply
      1. almark

        I can just go down my list and see people following, look at their tweets and find that most of the things they are say look like someone pasted a bunch of gibberish. Indeed twitter may have more fake accounts then they use to. Numbers are unknonw.

        Reply
  10. Mindi O'Toole

    Their profile description makes no fng sense like this one: “Avid zombie junkie. Music aficionado. Food trailblazer. Bacon fanatic. Entrepreneur. Communicator.” Food trailblazer? Avid zombie junkie? Really?

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara

      There are definitely some crazy descriptions people use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they (this one in particular) are fake accounts.

      I am curious to know what a “food trailblazer” is though 🙂

      Reply
      1. Mindi O'Toole

        I usually get random followers with a picture of a pretty girl who tweets nothing but quotes or links that I never click (usually because I see the word “cam” hidden in there). On Instagram it’s bikini pictures (with no face) and stock sunset photos. You’re definitely right though. That crazy description doesn’t necessarily mean fake account (mine doesn’t exactly look sane either, now that I think about it) but it usually tips me off to investigate further.

        Reply
  11. Nifty Betty

    Yesterday I got 15 new followers on Twitter in a very short amount of time (which doesn’t happen to me). All their photos look like stock photos. If they are bot accounts, they just started. They only have around 80-90 tweets, around 30-40 followers and are following around 600-700 people. Some of the accounts have the same tweets. Am I suppose to report these?

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara

      You can report these if you think they are fake/spam, or block them. Without seeing them, I would say they do sound like they are fake. Especially if they have the same tweets on some of the accounts.

      Lately, I seem to get 5-10 accounts all favoriting the same tweet of mine. They never favorite anything else individually from what I can tell. So it looks like this group is also fake/bot/automated. Just one more thing to look out for.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment!

      Reply
  12. Julia

    I’m not famous and I follow more people than I’m followed by. I don’t care though because I’m not looking for a huge amount of followers. My interactions take place with real life friends and family. I interact with some people but I won’t if I know the person won’t talk back or will only argue or attack me so some of those signs you mentioned don’t necessarily mean it’s a bot account. What I go by is the fake looking stock photo, duplicate tweets and things like ”How would you like to be a millionaire?’ I also know that when one bot account follows you, others slowly but surely begin following you as well. I blocked several people just today that followed me after one rogue account did.

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara Post author

      True Julia. Just because someone meets some of the criteria doesn’t mean they are necessarily a bot. You definitely can use your own instincts and judgement to make the final call. Very true in that once a bot account follows you there are many other that also start to follow you as well. Thanks for dropping by to leave a comment!

      Reply
  13. Melissa Jankowski

    Chris – I’m glad to see people are still discussing this helpful post. I’ve had a Twitter account for a long time, but really only started using it two months ago. I’ve found it simple enough to recognize and block the obvious bots, but they are getting sneakier. A seemingly legit account followed me the other day and it was interesting enough, so I followed back. Over the next hour or so, I had a jump in followers. All had profiles and none were completely nonsensical, but there was no interaction. I noticed that all of the accounts were opened on the same month and year, and while they weren’t complete clones, they all put out the same tweets. I have a small following, so it’s not an issue for me, but I’m wondering… do you like to use any particular tools for weeding out fake accounts?

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara Post author

      Hey Melissa, I agree that it is good that people are still discussing this. There are people that are definitely getting smarter/better at creating more realistic fake Twitter accounts. As for a good tool, I like using ManageFlitter to quickly remove “suspect” accounts plus accounts without profile pics, inactive accounts, etc.

      You can probably find another tool or two in this massive list of 500+ social media tools – http://bulk.ly/social-media-tools/

      Reply
  14. Nurul

    My twitter account have no profile images, no followers and no tweets. It’s because I join twitter just for seeing updates from my favourite bands.

    Reply
    1. Chris Makara Post author

      Yeah, there are definitely people who do that as well. The 11 ways I outlined are simply just common trends I seem to find in most “fake” accounts. Thanks for dropping by to leave a comment!

      Reply

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I’m Chris Makara and I share my 13+ years of
Real world digital marketing experience
without the theories or concepts.