How can children tell the difference between real and fake profiles online?

We’ve noted before that one of the threats children face online is scammers and predators posing as children themselves to start conversations, gain trust and gather personal details that can be used to exploit the child or find them in real life.  

With how easy it is for anyone (literally, anyone!) to create a fake social media or gaming account online, it’s important that children know how to tell these fakes from real people online.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

The life lesson “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” may seem a little harsh to impart on a child however scammers and predators will often create profiles that resonate with their targets – matching their interests, hobbies, and opinions to ensure kids will want to connect with them.

What’s their connection to you?

Predators will try to make their profile seem authentic by creating connections to other people that the child knows – they’ll claim to be a friend or relative of someone at school or they’ll build up the number of mutual friends/followers. If a child has never met this person in real life, they should ask the person they’re claiming to know about their own connection to each other. This will help them determine if the profile belongs to someone who exists in real life, or if it could be someone posing as a child online.

They only have one photo

Since children are encouraged not to share images of themselves online, it can be difficult to tell a real profile from a fake based on the picture alone. However, if the same image is used across multiple platforms it’s possible that the profile belongs to someone posing as a child.

Top Tip – Do a reverse image search on Google to see if the photo is a stock photo rather than something the user has created themselves. If they use a stock photo, the profile is likely a fake.

They’re overly friendly and forward

The goal of a scammer or predator who has created a fake profile online is to gain enough trust from a child – either to exploit the child or someone the child knows. To do this, they often come across as incredibly friendly and direct when you first make contact – however, how many children are really like this in real life? While this is only identifiable once they’ve already reached out to the child, by catching it early children can avoid carrying on the conversation further.

They request personal information

Personal information can be used to either exploit children online or to find them in real life where they can be physically attacked. Children should be wary of anyone who requests personal information from them such as their full name, date of birth, address, school, etc. Often these questions will be phrased in ways that don’t make it obvious they’re phishing for information e.g. “I love playing football – what team do you play for?”. It’s likely someone using a fake profile if they keep pushing for information after the child has refused to tell them the first time.

This may seem like a lot of work, however, with cybercrime against children increasing during the lockdown, it has never been more important that children know how to stay safe online.

CAP Certified’s Child Authentication & Protection platform does the work for you. CAP uses data from local authorities to verify the identity of each child and create a safe space where children can only talk to other verified children and users across social media and gaming platforms, making sure children do not cross paths with groomers and predators.

To find out more about CAP Certified or to join our beta programme, get in touch using the forms below.