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Software that lies (so you don't have to!)

Mike Elgan | Sept. 3, 2012
Mike Elgan uncovers a massive lies-for-sale industry in the mobile and social networking world.

Lately, I've heard a lot about a new website that shows what percentage of someone's Twitter followers are "fake," "inactive" and "good."

If the Fake Follower Check site is accurate, some of the biggest Twitter users, including President Obama, Lady GaGa and Justin Bieber, have thousands or even millions of "followers" who aren't real people.

I've been looking into this phenomenon, and I've been shocked by what I've found. There is, apparently, a massive lies-for-sale industry made up of services that either offer tools to help people lie, or tell lies directly on behalf of their customers.

Popularity lies

How much does it cost to fake popularity? On the cheap side, you can buy 1,000 Twitter followers for $14 on a site called InterTwitter; 5,000 followers cost $43; 100,000 cost $487.

Followers are even cheaper on FanMeNow, where you can buy 1,000 followers for $10 -- or 1 million for $1,350.

Higher-end sites like Buy Active Fans promise not just followers, but engaged followers -- and even American ones. But those higher quality followers will cost you: 1,000 global followers cost $10, but 1,000 Americans will set you back $50. A global 100,000 runs $460, but the same number of Yanks costs $4,650.

Some of these businesses will also sell you followers and fans on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other sites.

The fake Twitter followers industry is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, a huge fake-popularity industry takes many forms. An application called One million Clicks, billed as a Web traffic simulator, will make it look like your site is getting mad traffic.

For $5, you can even have a fake girlfriend on Facebook. A site called GirlfriendHire lets you browse and pick a phony companion -- and that person will actually provide the service of posting on your wall, etc., so your family and friends think you really are dating someone.

Telephone lies

Even Google Voice will lie for you. When you "block" a number on the service, anyone who calls from that number will get a perfectly convincing "this number is no longer in service" message.

You can install a huge number of iOS and Android apps that simulate calls to your phone. Most of these will ring your phone, spoofing a fake caller ID ("Look, it's the president again!") and then coach you through a conversation. The software tells you what to say so that others in the room will think you're responding. Some of the more popular apps include Fake-a-Call for iOS, Fake Conversation for iOS and Fake Call Me for Android.

Similar apps will send you fake text messages. For that service, try Fake-a-Message.


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