How to trace a fake Facebook account

Posted on May 1, 2014

 

Since the creation of the Internet, websites have been used to carry on the much practiced offline technique of bullying. What used to happen face-to-face, and in school playgrounds, now takes place online on websites such as Twitter and Facebook. The problem is that children today are very well versed in technology, having grown up with it, but have little understanding of the dangers it carries, or of the responsibilities they should have with regards to how they treat others online.

How to Trace a Fake Facebook Account

To many, including some schools and some authorities, online bullying seems to be a harmless crime which is completely untraceable.

Facebook, in particular, is a main target for cyber bullies because it allows people to create fake accounts with very little in the way of validation, and to target others without any fear of reprisals. When fake accounts are created in someone’s name, and used to post hurtful photographs or make unpleasant comments towards their intended target, or the target’s friends, it can often be difficult for the victimised party to even find the profile itself, let alone get it removed or bring those responsible to task. With Facebook’s privacy settings, bullies are able to create fake profiles and have them unsearchable, so it’s next to impossible to find them – until they contact you.

Today’s cyber bullies know how to use the technology at their disposal, and believe they’re safely anonymous in their actions. This, of course, is not the case.

The Problem

We recently needed to trace a fake Facebook profile when someone came to us after they had been targeted, and their friends were receiving obscene messages seemingly ‘on their behalf’. The victim of the bullying didn’t even have a link to the profile, they just knew someone had created one claiming to be them and they were sending messages to their friends.

A search around various websites and forums for how to proceed showed that nobody had any real insight into how to deal with this issue, and the general consensus was that Facebook itself could probably get information, such as the IP address of the person responsible, but they would never share it. Finding the identity of the bully was impossible, it would appear.

The Hunt

The first step was to locate the profile itself. Without this, there really was nothing that could be done. Despite the victim’s friends claiming to have received obscene messages, nobody was willing to provide a link to the profile in question – perhaps because they knew who was responsible and didn’t want to get them into trouble, or perhaps because they were scared of reprisals from the online bully. Whatever the reason, this was a dead-end. It also didn’t help that the person being bullied wasn’t even on Facebook, so they didn’t have any connections either.

Instead we needed to trace the profile based on the friendship principle. We knew the people who had supposedly received messages and, by using Facebook’s search facility, we were able to trace one or two of those people on Facebook. Once we had two people, it was easy to scour their friends’ lists and locate the profiles of the others. Before long, we had uncovered a web of profiles, all cross-linked between each other (Facebook does something similar to offer suggested friends as ‘people you may know’). Now, while the fake profile itself was set so that it couldn’t be searched, it was still discoverable from the profiles of the people it had connected with – and some of the profiles we found had the fake profile displayed as one of their friends.

We had found our fake profile.

The Decision

We were now faced with a decision. It would have been easy at this stage to report the fake profile to Facebook, and have it removed. Well, we say ‘easy’, but actually Facebook doesn’t make it easy to report a profile when it isn’t yours if you actually have a Facebook account yourself. When you come to report a profile, Facebook asks if the profile is yours and if you have a Facebook account. It doesn’t allow you to report a fake profile on behalf of someone else if you have a Facebook account, as it doesn’t seem to accept the fact that you might have a Facebook account yet you have a friend who doesn’t.

To report a profile on behalf of someone else, you need to log out of Facebook and say you don’t have a Facebook account. It’s a long-winded process, but it’s the only way to do it if you want to go through Facebook.

However, doing that wouldn’t necessarily help in finding out who created the profile in the first place. It would only serve to report the profile to Facebook and have it deleted. No, instead we needed to be a little more technical.

The Method

Finding out the identity of who created a Facebook profile is, according to most websites and forums, impossible and, using just the tools made available via Facebook, this would be the case. However, using systems we have already developed here at Engage Web (such as our location-based weather system) it is possible to get a lot of information about someone if they just follow a link of our choosing, a link to a page made just for them and containing code developed to gather data about the computer used by the person looking at it.

We’re not going to reveal the code used in this article but, suffice to say, what we discovered should serve to warn people of the dangers of pretending to be someone else online. But how to get someone to click on a link? That’s the difficult part. Surely nobody would be stupid enough to follow a link sent to them by someone they don’t know on Facebook? Well, yes, actually. Confidence breeds complacency and people who think they know what they’re doing online are often very complacent because, after all, who could possible catch them out? They’re the technical experts. They’re the cyber bullies hiding behind a fake profile. They’re untouchable.

Oh, no they’re not!

A message sent to the fake profile, containing a link to a page that harboured our code, was enough to tempt the cyber bully to follow it and give us all of their information. The promise of information about the person they were bullying was more than they could resist.

The Result

Below you will see the raw headers captured by our code when the cyber bully followed the link from Facebook. We have removed the referring URL (which would show the name of the person in the profile) and we have removed the Host URL (the website we used to trap the data). We have left everything else in, however.

Host n11-04-03.opera-mini.net

Opera/9.80 (J2ME/MIDP; Opera Mini/4.2.14004/34.788; U; en) Presto/2.8.119 Version/11.10

Accept ==>> text/html, application/xml;q=0.9, application/xhtml+xml, image/png, image/webp, image/jpeg, image/gif, image/x-xbitmap, */*;q=0.1——Accept-Encoding ==>> gzip, deflate——Accept-Language ==>> en-GB,en;q=0.9——Connection ==>> Keep-Alive——Device-Stock-Ua ==>> Alcatel-OT-800——Forwarded ==>> for=\”149.254.58.252:31991\”——Host ==>> www.********.co.uk——Referer ==>> http://m.facebook.com/l.php?u= http%3A%2F%2F www.*********** .co.uk%2F *************%2F&h=9AQG1O_eu&s=1——User-Agent ==>> Opera/9.80 (J2ME/MIDP; Opera Mini/4.2.14004/34.788; U; en) Presto/2.8.119 Version/11.10——X-Forwarded-For ==>> 149.254.58.252——X-Operamini-Features ==>> advanced, file_system, folding——X-Operamini-Phone ==>> Alcatel # OT 800——X-Operamini-Phone-Ua ==>> Alcatel-OT-800——

So what does this show us? Firstly, we can tell the bully isn’t using a computer. They’re using a mobile phone. We have learned the manufacturer and the model of the mobile phone used to access the website, an Alcatel One Touch 800 (not a common phone). We have learned the IP address of the phone, 149.254.58.252. A search on this IP address in Google tells us the mobile phone is on the O2 Network.

So we have the network, the mobile phone manufacture, the model of the phone and the IP address. This is a lot of data from just one click, and enough for the school itself to begin investigations. However, it’s not enough for us. We need more.

The Facebook Route

This is where the reporting of the profile comes in. Facebook allows you to report fake profiles (once you remember to log out to report a profile of someone else and to say you don’t have a Facebook account). You do, however, need to prove who you are and submit copies of a government issued ID (such as driver’s licence or passport). The response from Facebook to this is usually very fast indeed, just a few days, as Facebook takes matters of cyber bullying very seriously. Once Facebook has reviewed the information given to it and confirmed the profile is fake, its team will act and get it removed.

Imposter Account Information Requests

This isn’t the end of it, however, because you are now able to go a step further and request information about the ‘imposter account’, such as who created it, when it was created, the email address they used, the IP address, when they logged in and even their phone number.

That’s right – you are able to get the mobile phone number of the person who created the fake profile. We bet the cyber bully responsible didn’t think someone could get that information from Facebook.

Impostor Account Information Requests

Imposter Account Information Requests

This sort of information requires even more hoop-jumping however, as Facebook requires something called a ‘notarized statement’ confirming your identity. This is common in the USA, but not something we really have in the UK. However, a signed and dated statement from someone such as a solicitor, policeman or vicar should be sufficient. We used a solicitor, who wrote our notarized statement and stamped copies of a passport confirming the identity. This was then uploaded and accepted by Facebook, and a full document was forthcoming with more information than we could have hoped for.

What Facebook gave us

Facebook sent a document showing the dates, times and IP addresses of every instance where someone accessed the fake profile, every time someone logged in. This document showed when the fake profile was created, the date and time, and it gave us the phone number of the person responsible.

An example of the Facebook data:

IP Address 78.148.183.215
Time 2013-06-13 20:40:37 UTC
Location WAP
IP Address 78.148.183.215
Time 2013-06-13 16:53:09 UTC
Location WAP
IP Address 212.183.128.218
Time 2013-06-07 06:40:47 UTC
Location WAP
IP Address 212.183.128.234
Time 2013-06-07 01:05:34 UTC
Location WAP

From this, we have learned that the person who created the profile either changed their phone twice, or there were three different people – as the IP addresses used belong to Talk Talk and Vodafone, as well as the original O2 mobile we trapped earlier. The fake profile was created using a Vodafone mobile on the IP address 212.183.128.221 at 22:04 on 6th June 2013, and was validated via text using the mobile number 0750 231 0842 (this number currently has a Vodafone voicemail message when dialled).

So, if you or someone you know has been the victim of bullying via a fake profile on Facebook, not only can you have the profile deleted; you can find out who created it, when they created it, when they have logged in, and what their phone number is.

As for the cyber bullies reading this (because we know some will while they Google how to do it, and whether they can be caught) – yes, you can be caught. Yes, you can be traced.

The Internet is not anonymous, and bullying is bullying. Click To Tweet

Updated 3rd August 2016 – We have received a vast number of requests from people asking for help in tracing fake Facebook profiles. We regret we are unable to assist anyone with this or offer advice beyond what is already contained within the above article, however we have written an eBook explaining in detail how you do it, including how you get the IP address of the person responsible. The eBook can be downloaded here and costs £29 but we are able to offer a discount with the code EWTRACE which gives you the eBook for just £9.99. Enter the code EWTRACE in the checkout for the discounted price.

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Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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59 Comments »

  1. Hi I have a friend who has a similar but not same problem.

    There is an abusive account but not “impostor” account that keeps spreading malicious content about her to everyone on her friend list.

    Would facebook also allow us to get the “abusive account” owner’s IP address and mobile number?

    Comment by Don Tan — September 7, 2014 @ 3:06 pm

  2. Mr. Darren or someone Web Expert, Help Me Please!

    I have been wanting to report an abusive, malicious and fake accounts who’s been non-stop requesting me to be friend and when once I did, messages, photos and comments were all p*rn and unwanted topics, so I decided to block the particular profileb and yet constantly creating new profiles and again and again, requesting me to be friend and sending messages. I have been using Facebook for many years, happily married with 1 daughter, and I just thought and hope to finally find out who is the restless behind all fake accounts.

    I wish to know you’re more than willing to help, thank you in advance.

    Comment by Mela S. Laurel — October 26, 2014 @ 10:31 am

  3. Hi Mela – drop us an email on info@engageweb.co.uk with some more details and we’ll take a look for you.

    Comment by Darren — October 28, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

  4. Please help me track down a fake facebook account pretending to be me….. “Frank Kalabasa” the link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005875759183&fref=ts

    Comment by Jon O. Puno — November 18, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

  5. Hi, I hope that someone on this team can help me. Someone has created a fake facebook account and has started to post lies about me. I wish track down this person! Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    Comment by Netasha — November 25, 2014 @ 9:06 am

  6. Hi Mr.Darren Jamieson,Last 7 Months somebody stole a picture of Mine and Posted on Her Facebook Account.a very discriminating abusive Lines and Sent this extra to my 3 Friends.please help me am trying to search but her Account is a Fake One.she used a fake Identity.Since then i dont have a Peace of mind,i want to know who is behind.Thank you very much!

    Comment by Luz Mae Riessinger — December 4, 2014 @ 10:02 pm

  7. Hello, looking for some advice. Someone has twice now created a fake profile of me stealing only my profile picture and date of birth and friends everyone they can. They then go on to spread lies and post obscene content on several persons profiles. Each time I was able to report the profile and have it removed by facebook within two days but I am assuming this will continue to happen since I’m not sure who it is. I’m not in the UK so I’m not sure if the policies are different here in the US but the only way to request information on the creator of the profile is to have law enforcement contact facebook itself. Any advice how I can find out who is behind this? I realize I could probably accept the friend request to find out more information but that would also give them more information about myself I don’t want them to have.

    Comment by Amy — January 28, 2015 @ 8:55 pm

  8. someone is making fake id by my name and is harrasing me

    Comment by hadia — March 6, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  9. I’m Ali from Pakistan….i have a very serious problem regarding facebook….someone has made an account with the name of me and my girl friend…and that account is blackmailing n threatening us.. .that account is making the utmost -ve image in front of my else fellows teachers….that account has sent the other fellows friend requests and is Using so much abusive language…sharing my Girl Friend’s Phone No with everyone…that account is deadly harassing both of us.. ..after 15 days we have our annual exams…due to this tension I’m unable to concentrate on my studies…please help me out i beg u please

    Comment by Ali Ahsan — March 7, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

  10. hi theres someone making things up on fb a fake page telling my boss am taking her clients please help

    Comment by betriz — March 9, 2015 @ 12:24 pm

  11. Hi Darren, am I understanding this article correctly? The short version is that unless an individual joins Facebook using an email address or a mobile phone number that is attached to them in real life – they cant be identified as being behind a Facebook account, unless their Internet Service Provider is subpoenaed by Police staff within a set time frame, depending on how often the ISP deletes their customer data and cooperates within the realm of the DPA. Same for Facebook, if the account is deleted, they can’t help you out either and they can’t supply a request for information with the identity of the individual behind the account because they don’t hold that information, unless the user at the time of joining supplied Facebook with an email or phone number attached to their real life identity. If someone does try to obtain a Facebook user’s information through a form of Phishing, the information you find is the device currently being used and the IP address that device is using which if it’s a mobile phone or a proxy server can be anywhere in the world?

    Your article is correct, a Facebook user can be traced by an individual, but not without the assistance of legal representation, law enforcement, the compliance of Facebook and Internet Service Providers in compliance with the Data Protection Act and to get started with this procedure, there must be a strong reason to trace a Facebook user. I doubt there are very many police forces who make fake Facebook accounts their priority, unless the complainant is someone the officer personally knows or in a position of power. It’s a waste of time, money and other resources.

    Comment by Nunya Bee — March 12, 2015 @ 9:49 am

  12. someone has been insulting me on facebook using a fake account kindly can anyone help me trace the person/

    Comment by kigen boiit — March 17, 2015 @ 7:47 am

  13. Samson Jones has a rack page that harassing me and my daughter

    Comment by Zina Malone-Winbush — March 31, 2015 @ 5:08 am

  14. someone has created a fake facebook in my fiancés name and is sending harassing messages to a girl she recently got a restrainging order against my fiancé, and this facebook wrote to her again, so he was arrested today. any input how I can find out who it really was before court tomorrow? they had tried adding me at one point in time and sent me messages not knowing he was sitting right next to me so I knew it wasn’t him, and now I cant find the profile. please any help!

    Comment by fonda — April 15, 2015 @ 9:51 pm

  15. Hi I am from new Zealand and have recently experience threats and harrasment from a fake page it has no information or friends or anything I was wanting to trace down where, when and who it may be?

    Comment by Ngas Watene — April 24, 2015 @ 12:04 am

  16. Hi im wondering if Nyone can help me i have a restraing order on a ex partner the injunction which was in court again today has been carried on for another year as he has been harrassing me via txt wattsapp etc threats etc … Its a long story but basickly today the judge told him jnjunction in place and not to try and contact me again and also he was charged with harrassment by the police to whichvhe has been in bail for yet 30 mins ago someone who created an account 36 mins ago tried adding ( which he has set up fake accounts before ) one pic no friends no posts etc i know this is definately him i have not accepted but he is breaking court order less than half a day after it was set up is there anyway to find info out on this so i can take it further as im sick of living in fear for me and my kids hope someone can advice thanks gor reading

    Comment by Anon — April 30, 2015 @ 4:36 pm

  17. Sir, I have a question regarding this article.
    What if a bully created a page and confessed some post and deleted after it.. is it traceable ?

    Comment by Agha Noor — June 10, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

  18. […] What this does tell us, however, is that social media has a very disturbing power. A shared story and a few Tweets (OK, probably thousands) can add hundreds of millions to the value of a business. More than this, it can destroy reputations, end careers and even, in some cases, cause deaths (especially in the case of online bullying). […]

    Pingback by Twitter value soars following hoax story — July 16, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

  19. The website above is for Payson K. Keeler and it is a fake name of an actor…this fake Facebook is harassing my Daughter, Nephew and their friends…I also suspect that it is behind the texts that are being sent to us threatening our lives is their anything you can do to help us the phone numbers that the texts are coming from have been masked by an app. the police are working on it also if this could help that would be a blessing, were so tired of this harassment Thank You

    Comment by Angela Toof — August 14, 2015 @ 12:42 am

  20. Sir,

    Some body made my fake profile on Facebook.how to track .Plz suggest me

    Comment by Rahul Raj — August 29, 2015 @ 10:34 am

  21. I’m been harassed on Facebook by someone that created a faked page I want to know how to find out who created it its friend requesting mu friends and family degrading me everything please I need help

    Comment by Simone Smith — August 29, 2015 @ 11:30 am

  22. I have been getting fake profiles asking personal questions about my personal life even using names of someone I know. I need to know who this is coming from. i have saved the messages from 2 of these fake accounts? can you help?

    Comment by Cynthia Haddad — November 9, 2015 @ 6:53 pm

  23. Hi, can any of you find and give me the IP address this Facebook profile please? this the link:

    This person is a professional corn artist.. Pleaseeeeee

    Comment by Emmanuel Scage Ericho Bona — November 15, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

  24. I av being receiving abusive msg n words from a fake account may you plz help me in finding who it Is please

    Comment by gift — December 1, 2015 @ 7:53 pm

  25. Morning Darren, can you help someone has posted a fake account of my wife on facebook and I need to trace the culprit can you help. Naheem

    Comment by Naheem Khan — December 14, 2015 @ 10:31 am

  26. Hello,

    Someone sent my boyfriend a harassing message about me and has since changed the name of their fake profile account. You cannot find the account through a search but he still has the message. Can you help me find out who created this account?

    Comment by Kristina — December 15, 2015 @ 12:26 am

  27. Can you help me trace a fake account please

    Comment by Mimi — January 6, 2016 @ 8:35 pm

  28. I am being harassed by someone who made up a fake facebook account. Is there anyone to figure out who made the account?

    Comment by duck — February 17, 2016 @ 10:28 pm

  29. I have two fake accounts sending me messages and its really causing problems is there anyway I can get help tracking those please

    Comment by Marcia Deems Carpenter — February 18, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

  30. There is a person who keeps sending requests from a fake profile pretending to be my cousin who just passed. I got a request today and it’s her funeral. Could you please help?

    Comment by Nnekia — June 17, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

  31. […] knowhow that many people wouldn’t have been able to replicate. As a result, I decided to write an article about the process for Engage Web, thinking others would also be interested. Since then the article […]

    Pingback by How to trace a fake Facebook profile - Online Learning Academy Online Learning Academy — August 3, 2016 @ 3:16 pm

  32. someone that created a faked page I want to know how to find out who created it its friend requesting friends and family degrading me everything please I need help

    Comment by JAYA — February 28, 2017 @ 3:26 am

  33. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016149853679

    this person has hacked my account and I do not know what to do about it!

    Comment by sarah — April 9, 2017 @ 1:45 am

  34. I am being harassed by someone who made a fake Facebook account is there anyone to figure out who made the account

    Comment by Kelly — October 2, 2017 @ 4:23 pm

  35. I read this report and found like there actually is someone passionate about this sore subject I’m been currently harrased on a different scale I would pay as much as I have to for someone to please find out who’s harrasing me I don’t want to go in to detail about what this person or persons say but would love to speak to someone from you’re team thanks in advance !!

    Comment by Rather not say — November 29, 2017 @ 9:21 pm

  36. Someone posted a damaging profile in my name on Match.com using my email. Is there a way to find out who and when, and if my computer(s) was or were used? I had the profile taken down. This occurred in the last few months.

    Comment by Greg — April 18, 2018 @ 8:30 pm

  37. Hi please can anyone help me trace who’s threatening my sister my 7yr old neice and 79yr old nan threw a fake Facebook profile I’d be extremely grateful for any help you could give many thanks the fake account is
    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013233210978

    Comment by Kelly — May 2, 2018 @ 8:23 pm

  38. […] Fake Facebook profiles are a much publicised concern, and one of the most notorious cases occurred in Morocco in 2008, when a computer engineer set one up in the name of the king’s brother. Fouad Mourtada’s mischief earned him a fine of 10,000 dinars (around £800) and a three-year jail term, although he was eventually pardoned after only 43 days. […]

    Pingback by The World Cup of the web – part 1 Engage Web — June 12, 2018 @ 12:24 pm

  39. Hi mr darren I’ve been desperate to find the owner behind fake facebook account who’s been abuse me lately. Im so curious aas it seems that person ia close to me and my family. I wonder if you can help.
    Thank you

    Comment by Joya — August 21, 2018 @ 11:01 pm

  40. hello, I’m 22 years old and from the UK. for the past 6 years I have had over 50 fake Facebook accounts private message me regarding my breast size, each message is different. some saying, “melons”, “jugs”, you get the picture. they’re obviously obsessed with me and they have stayed anonymous all these years. they have even started messaging my mum and even her friends asking if they know me! the police wont do anything as it is not threatening behaviour apparently. not only do they find me on Facebook but every social media I have, I’m at my wits end! please help me

    Comment by sian — September 8, 2018 @ 9:15 pm

  41. Hello Dear, Please Help Me As soon as possible. this profile is fake and he was suspect person. few days ago he messages our friends and family person very ugly and threads. please help me.
    URL: https://www.facebook.com/moin.rahman.900

    Thanks
    Md. Arif Hasan Rony

    Comment by Arif Hasan Rony — December 12, 2018 @ 7:13 am

  42. Would this work if the person is not using a mobile phone?

    Comment by Crystal Main — May 25, 2019 @ 7:52 pm

  43. Hi Crystal. Yes, if the steps are followed it will work regardless of whether the person is using a desktop or mobile device.

    Comment by Mark Glenning — June 4, 2019 @ 11:22 am

  44. Hello Mr.Darren… I have been recently married and i am now facing a problem from a fake account.. My husband had received a message in facebook messenger making fake comments and harrasing me and abusing me,i didnot find any details in that account except the name and everything is hidden…please help me finding the details of that fake id so that i can solve my problem please help me please…

    Comment by ammulugalipelly — June 21, 2019 @ 9:54 am

  45. I need help tracking a fake Facebook profile! There’s someone out there sending horrendous false information about me to my employer trying to get me fired! Please help!!!

    Comment by Jordan — July 25, 2019 @ 3:15 am

  46. My grandaughter is being harrased on fb. She gets post saying she should kill herself and her 3 yr old autistic son. They say she is a horrible person and her son is retarded. How can we make them stop.

    Comment by Linda G Jones — August 16, 2019 @ 9:39 pm

  47. Hi Linda,

    We’re sorry to hear of this. We cannot get involved in individual cases, but by following the advice in the blog or purchasing the eBook mentioned, you should be able to trace who is behind the account.

    Comment by Carl Hopkinson — August 27, 2019 @ 3:52 pm

  48. Hey man, I have a question, I live in very strict country where human right and freedom speech is controlled. For such reasons I created a fake account to express my opinions, not cyper bullying or anything like that. So if its this easy to find someone Im greatly concerned about my safety, they can just make the fake passport and request the fb my date for impostering and find out about me. Can you give any advice?

    Comment by sanchez — September 27, 2019 @ 4:32 am

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