Suddenly, overnight my site had a spike in new followers. Wondering what was driving this new rush i was puzzled to find that most were ‘fake’ accounts. Investigating further through the WordPress support forum i discovered it is an ongoing issue. The assistance i received from a WP Community Guardian suggested that i remove the followers but as there is no way to block these accounts it appears that this action merely triggers an automatic ‘re-follow’.
Though the response from the WP Community Guardian is reassuring – “….. site followers do not have special access to your site, therefore they don’t have any special access or present a security threat to you, your site, or your legitimate readers.”
Personally, I’m not entirely convinced, as when trying to track further details through the gravatars my anti-virus software signals a warning that the certificate of use is suspicious and is possibly leading to a site attempting to acquire personal information. Meanwhile i have beefed up security on my account by setting up a two-step login but, worryingly there is no way to protect information on the Gravatar site.
It would be interesting to know how widespread this scourge of fake followers is in affecting the WordPress community; are there key words which trigger the bots; is it region related? Anybody else being plagued by these unwanted pests?
Given that there has been much discussion recently on the Twitter and Instagram platforms about purging fake followers perhaps we should be anticipating some action from our WordPress Community Guardians in finding a solution as well?
Further reading – “Fake Instagram Followers bring numerous security risks”
41 thoughts on “Spam Bots and Fake Followers”
Back a few months ago, I noticed a surge of these as well, most with outlook.com addresses. It didn’t last too long, as I just ignored them. I thought it was a phishing scam, wherein once you contacted them they somehow gained access to your site or followers. Are they just looking for addresses, who knows?
Another thing I’ve noticed a couple of times is that a new follower looks legit, but when I look at their list of ‘Blogs I Follow’ it mirrors mine exactly. That is a bit weird and I wonder if it is some scam as well. I know practically nothing about how the cyber world works and can’t imagine how anyone would want to do bad things, but reality suggests there are many who do. (sigh)
Eliza, I have noticed that too about some blogs that look legit. They have a list of blogs they follow that matches mine, but I don’t even have a follow list on my site so how does that happen? I haven’t worked that out yet. Very strange.
It’s eerie – like they’ve copied my follow/follower list.
I know. What reason is there for that? And yet some of the blogs seem perfectly normal. I don’t follow them though.
There is weird stuff happening! I shall request an explanation from the WP boffs. Hoping we can get an update from the ‘Community Guardians’ – how’s that as a title?!
Not Happiness Engineers any more?
Yes, I’m pretty selective about whom I follow, in that I only have so much time in a day!
An interesting reply has come through from one of the Community Guardians re the mirrored blog follower list – “This is actually a known bug with the “Blogs I Follow” Widget. It happens from time to time with certain sites, and we are aware of this issue. However, it is not at all a breach of security or any kind of scam.”
Reassuring but it would be nice to know how to protect the widget!
Funny thing is I don’t HAVE that widget on any of my sites so how can the people I follow be replicated? Seems like more than one bug to me. But thanks for pursuing this Liz.
The WP Community Guardians are reassuring that these fake followers don’t pose any risks and they’re “working on it” – i hope so! It’s taken me a number goes to rid my account and ‘un-follow’ the ‘sex pests’ followers….. just so annoying!
Had this reply re the Blog Followers List –
“This is actually a known bug with the “Blogs I Follow” Widget. It happens from time to time with certain sites, and we are aware of this issue. However, it is not at all a breach of security or any kind of scam.”
Interesting… thanks for the update, Liz.
I had a spate of outlook.com subscriptions maybe half a year ago. After a while it suddenly stopped and has not resumed.
Same here, I guess the bot petered out or was finally stopped.
This is encouraging Steve. Similarly the activity has slowed and stopped. Hoping that’s that.
Every now and then I get a flurry of these fakers, too. Sometimes they come from suspicious email followers or I’ll get a ton of comments that are generic and meaningless so I delete them.
It’s some consolation that it’s not just per region! Here in SA we’re super suspicious of action from a certain country where a lot of the fake followers are spawned!!
I’ve noticed them mainly on outlook.com accounts. I just ignore them
Ignoring these Fake followers is probably the best solution – it appears that ‘unfollowing’ them triggers a ‘re-follow’!
Yes, I got a ton of them for a while, although it has dropped off quite a bit lately.
Interesting that the action appears to come in bouts. It took me three attempts of ‘un’ following unwelcome followers – now appears that did the trick?! Pesky, nevertheless!
I don’t have follow problem but tons of such comments. Most of these automatically end up in spam. Sometimes, I have to mark them. And at times, local businesses post comments with their link in it.
Glad that there are plugins for spam protection, but still it’s annoying when unsolicited comments keep coming!
Try marking them as spam.
That thing about blogs I follow lists, An absolutely 100% genuine blogger I follow has my ‘blogs I follow’ list on his page, so not sure how that happened, he has never commented on it, wonder if it only shows when reading their blog?
Here’s a reply from one of the WP Guardians on the Blogs I Follow – “This is actually a known bug with the “Blogs I Follow” Widget. It happens from time to time with certain sites, and we are aware of this issue. However, it is not at all a breach of security or any kind of scam.”
Reassuring, but it would be nice to have a fix!
I don’t have problems with followers, but with spam comments. They sometimes look like a real comment, ‘I really liked your blog’, ‘great photos’ etc but when you hover over the comment their address is a business. Some comments make absolutely no sense at all.
Phew, that’s scary stuff. I agree our WordPress Community Guardians should help find a solution quickly. The www is their area of expertise after all. We’re just humble photographers and writers and most of this technical stuff escapes me 🙂
Try the “Lock User Account” plugin.
Yep I got them too! Mostly about the same time my email account was overloaded with spam also that would be about a month ago. I looked into a few of the followers because they were all generated from Outlook accounts… I have an outlook account and many businesses do too so I began to think that it was marketing related and now I have tons of spam to my personal email… thank God I have a work account also so I can take time to remove the spam over time if I need to with out it affecting my work email. I also hope that WordPress looks into this issue and finds some kind of solution in the mean time I am just going to have to let the fake followers stay until I have more time to remove them.
Hi JoLynn, it sure is annoying being swamped by unwelcome spam and followers! Hoping that WP does take action, but i get the impression that not having a ‘paying’ plan business account, that this is not at the top of the ‘to-do’ list for the WP Community Guardians!
Same here. After some time without those request, I notice a wave of new fakes. Than, again, a quite time ’til the next wave. Sometimes more than 10 a day
Seems like a common problem. Too bad that WP don’t have a handle on blocking these unwanted fake followers!
Yes, it happened to me as well. I just ignored them, but might need to have a look at them. Annoying.
Thanks for commenting….. yes, it’s really annoying! I would ignore most of these fake followers except these with ‘sexual’ context!! I’m outraged!!
It’s annoying that so many people/fake organisations etc seem determined to spoil our online lives. What starts out as a good idea like facebook turns into a nightmare of ads and meaningless quizzes etc!
Thank you for posting about this and for asking one of the WP Community Guardians. I have been wondering what to do about the same issue as well.
Sounds like a WP blogger’s nightmare. I hadn’t heard of this before. Honestly, when I started reading your post I thought you were featured on WP Discover. 🙂 Spam comments are normally safely taken care of and moderation helps comments that escape the plugin. I’ve found the chat feature to be extremely helpful and I remember having an issue with our site (2 years back). Glad to know you got the problem fixed and thanks for sharing it with us.
I’m really relieved that it’s cleared now!
Thank goodness for the “community guardians” at the help desk. Compared with other social platforms very glad that WP keeps the malicious spam at bay. Feather in their cap that they are supportive and respond promptly. For now the problem appears to have been resolved 🙂