A Facebook search of Goodluck Jonathan springs up tens of profiles bearing the President's photograph and his bio-data. The same applies to top government functionaries, politicians, Nollywood actors and actresses and other celebrities.
There are over 98 Facebook accounts bearing the President's name and photographs. In fact, three of the accounts use the same picture the President uses on his real page.
Jonathan's authentic account with the profile name 'Goodluck Jonathan' has 913,338 fans – as of Sunday – while one of the fake accounts, which uses the exact picture the President uses on his real account, but with the profile name 'Goodluck Ebele Jonathan', has 54,653 fans.
On most of the fake accounts, many people have made comments, believing that they were communicating with the President.
Many people continue to successfully fool people on social networks into believing that they are public figures. In many cases, they have managed to receive a few hundreds to thousands of followers in the process.
With the exception of parody Twitter accounts which are clearly stated as meant to mimic personalities, fake Twitter, as well as Facebook, accounts are deliberately meant to spread disinformation or swindle unsuspecting members of the public.
Wife of the Ondo State Governor, Mrs. Olukemi Mimiko, last Tuesday, raised the alarm over a bogus Facebook account being operated in her name. She disowned the account and expressly stated that she was not operating any social media account.
A search on Facebook revealed that two accounts were being operated in her name. One is a fan page while the other one is a Facebook profile account.
The Facebook fan page, which has been in operation for about two years currently, has 1,456 fans.
Mrs. Olukemi Mimiko was quoted as saying, "My attention has been drawn to the existence of a fake Facebook account created by some cyber-criminals on the popular social media network, Facebook.
"The purported Facebook account with the name Olukemi Mimiko has my personal and official pictures. Any person who transacts business or makes any comment in the said Facebook account does so at his or her own risk."
However, Mimiko is not the only public figure who had been forced to make such stern public warning about fictitious social media accounts.
The office of the Lagos State Governor had on November 13, last year, disowned four Facebook accounts being operated in the name of the wife of the governor, Abimbola Fashola.
The office had said, "For the avoidance of doubt, the First Lady of Lagos State does not operate any Facebook, Twitter or indeed social media accounts."
Reputation, both on the Internet and in real life relationship, is not toiled with by ordinary citizens let alone public figures.
Little wonder that former Nigerian International, Victor Ikpeba, disassociated himself from the Twitter handle, @IkebaOfficial, despite the fact that it was a parody account.
The person using the handle went on to exchange words with Osaze Odemwingie, prompting Ikpeba to issue a public statement distancing himself from the account. Ikpeba said in the statement that he was not operating any Twitter account.
However, activities of impostors should not deter public figures from using social networks to connect with the members of the general public.Experts say one of the best ways to distinguish one's account, either on Facebook or Twitter, from faked ones is to include a link to the page on an official website. With this, people searching for you on the social media can follow directly from the homepage of the website.
On Facebook, if you come across an account that pretends to be yours, using your photographs, simply go to your timeline and click the "Select/Block". Then follow the on-screen directions to file a report. Twitter also provides users to report such acts of impersonation.
Twitter, which used to accept public requests for verification has stopped it. It currently verifies accounts of highly, sought users in music, acting, government, politics, religion, business and other key interest areas on an ongoing basis to establish authenticity of identities.
Though Twitter has stopped public requests for verification, one can still position oneself such that Twitter can get to verify one's account by making sure that account information does not get changed often. For social media users who are wary of impostors on Twitter, a verified social media account will have a white check mark in a blue cloud on the user’s profile.
A digital media consultant, Chukwuemeka-Fred Agbata, says public figures can stem the tide of impostors by making their social media accounts active such that the followership base of their account grows. This, he argues, will differentiate it from faked accounts.