Skip to content

5 Astonishing Social Media hoaxes that fooled us all

More Options

And 11 quick tips to avoid falling for the same online tricks

   Comprehensive Software Suite


5 Astonishing Social Media Hoaxes That Fooled Us All

And 12 quick tips to avoid falling for the same online tricks

Below are some of the biggest social media hoaxes of the century to hit the news.

Sure we’re only 14 years deep into the third millennium, but during this short period of time we’ve been fed some outlandish internet codswallop. And most of us fell for it – even seasoned reporters.

Were you fooled?

1. Livr app prank: Social drinking gets more social


We’ve heard of social media sobriety tests that prevent you from going online when you’ve had one too many.

But Livr is the social network that wants you mullered before joining. It even comes with a mobile plugin-breathalyzer that unlocks extra features with every BAC point you blow over .08.

Before you slam down your cider and say ‘sign me up’, this isn’t a real app. Brandon Bloch, a branded content producer, created the LIVR concept.

His goal was to manufacture app hype – the kind that runs rampant in tech circles – around an ‘irresponsible’ product that doesn’t and will never exist.

Bloch soon confessed to the elaborate joke, disappointing international media, employment hopefuls, volunteer beta testers and investors who fell for the ruse.

Quick tip: How to know if an app is safe

  1. Outfit your device with mobile security for Android or iPhone and make sure it includes a virus scanner that finds malicious apps. In other words, use mobile security apps to make your mobile apps more secure.

2. Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax: Dude Facebooks like a lady

Manti Te’o was a fast-rising University of Notre Dame-football star. Lennay Kekua was a beautiful Stanford University undergrad.

The two met over Twitter in 2011 and carried on a digital romance – without ever physically meeting – until she was taken by leukaemia in 2012.

Three days later, Te’o shared his profound loss in a press conference following his win against Michigan State. The press loved his resilience in the face of tragedy.

That was until online sports outlet Deadspin blew the cover off the bizarre story.

Kekua never existed. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a male family-friend of Te’o’s, stole a former classmate’s identity and secretly began an emotional relationship with the footballer.

Media debate heated around Te’o’s participation in the sham, but evidence points to his innocence.

Quick tip: How to see if someone is using your photos.

  1. Perform a reverse image search to check for image copyright infrigement:
    • Right click the image and select Copy Image Location, Copy Image Address or Copy Image URL, depending on the browser.
    • Paste the address into Google Search.
    • On the search engine results page, click Search by Image.
    • The next results page will reveal where your image is posted.
    • Right click the image and select Copy Image Location, Copy Image Address or Copy Image URL, depending on the browser.

3. Paris Hilton’s Mandela tweet: Photoshop ‘til you drop

4. Nev Shulman & the catfish: The one that got away

It started when 8-year-old Abby Pierce sent Nev Shulman a painting of one of his published photographs. Communicating through Myspace and Facebook, he soon got to know Abby and her 19-year-old half-sister Megan.

Nev’s brother and his friend smelled a story and filmed the entire story arc, turning it into the internationally acclaimed documentary Catfish.

Not only did we get to follow the photographer’s 9-month relationship with Megan as it developed into a full-blown internet romance. But also we got to witness the moment Nev found out the shocking truth…

Megan, Abby and 19 other Pierce family members and friends he communicated with were fictional characters created by Angela Wesselman, a 45-year-old housewife.

Strangely there are no hard feelings. Angela and Nev are friends on Facebook to this day.

Quick tips: How to spot a fake online profile

  1. Do a reverse image search on the person’s photos (see Quick tip #2).
  2. Pay attention to grammatical inconsistencies if you’re dealing with a supposed native speaker of your language.
  3. Read the profile data carefully for odd statements and contradictions.
  4. Check the list of friends. Real people have local friends; a mostly global network points to a phony account.

These tips are also particularly helpful when looking into potential fake dating profiles you’re not sure about. So use them to avoid falling foul of online fraud merchants.

5. @Horse_eBooks comes clean: It’s made out of people


We loved you best when we thought you were an automated social media account promoting eBooks. You turned unintelligible twitter spam into stream of consciousness poetry.

Then hearts broke in 2013 when we found out the truth. In 2011, a flesh-and-bones man secretly replaced the account’s spambot. Adding insult to injury, the human claims his tweets are art... [crickets].

Although 210k of us are still retweeting, favouriting and sharing, it’s just not the same now that we know who – not what – is behind the curtain.

Read @Horse_eBooks' most popular tweets.

Quick tips: How to identify fake Twitter accounts

  1. The profile’s following-to-follower ratio is around 10:1.
  2. Only overtly sexual content is shared.
  3. Tweets contain zero substance and mainly consist of shortened links.
  4. Use the Fake Follower Check tool.

You might also like:

The rise in popularity of Android phones continues to push forward, but there are still vulnerabilities in the OS you should know about.

Help me keep my Android mobile secure

Social Media is now a daily part of most our lives, but complacency on social networks can pose a security threat to you.

Keep me socially secure

Social Media

Connect with us on