03/08/2012 13:11 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

83 million Facebook accounts are phony

Latest figures beg the question is it just a network of pretenders, fakes, duplicates and pets?

According to a quarterly report from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, 8.7 per cent of Facebook accounts are duplicates, spammers or belong to household pets.

Profiles for beloved pets - such as Daisy - are included in the numbers. Image MSN

Profiles for beloved pets - such as Daisy - are included in the numbers.

Faking it

So if you've ever set up a second account to log into other sites, created a special page for your favourite pet or
hiding behind a pseudonym - you may have contributed to the 83m phony Facebook accounts.

If you look at how these numbers break down, you'll see that 4.8 per cent are duplicate accounts, 2.4 per cent are user-misclassified accounts and the rest (1.5 per cent) are "undesirable" accounts. Facebook say these undesirables consist mainly of fraudsters who open accounts "intended to be used for purposes that violate our terms of service, such as spamming".

Innocent vs malicious

But what do these numbers really tell us, do these fake Facebook profiles pose a safety risk?

Indeed they do - if a comment from internet security specialist Norton should be believed. Norton has advised MSN UK that we need to be more vigilant than ever when visiting social networking sites.

Simon Ellson, Internet Security Expert at Norton, says: "The huge number of fake profiles on social media websites is very worrying and reinforces the need for users to be vigilant when sharing and surfing online. Criminal gangs have been known to monitor people's social profile status updates to find out when they're on holiday or have left their home empty and vulnerable. They also use sophisticated and targeted spam attacks on the social networks to lure people onto malicious websites, which can infect your system with malware."

Simon adds, "Remember that, unless your privacy settings are on high, social media networks and profiles are public arenas and can be viewed by anyone. With so many fakes out there, it's important to think before you post."

Is Facebook doing anything?

However it does seem that Facebook is trying to do something about this growing number. Our attempts at creating a profile for a beloved family pet ended in futility - with Facebook returning a "you are ineligible to register" message. If we had more time we'd inevitably try a little bit harder...

Of course you are reminded at the registration stage to instead create "a Page" if you are doing so on behalf of a celebrity, band or business.

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