If you are an active Facebook user, you have probably seen new friend requests pop up from people you are already connected to. This type of scam is called Facebook Cloning and is perpetrated when a bad guy uses publicly-available information including your name, profile picture, and sometimes existing About information, to create a new page – basically cloning your existing page. Then with this fake page, he sends friend request to your existing friends. Frequently, users will simply accept the fake friend request assuming you have created a new page or not remembering that they are already connected with you.
Herein lies the problem. This scam is an easy one to execute since nothing is really “hacked.” And unlike most con jobs, the person being cloned is not the target. The real victims are the user’s friends. Once the bad guy connects with some of the user’s friends, they get to work trying to steal information or money from them, using such tactics as:
- Requesting money to help with an emergency situation (pretending to be stranded while traveling is a popular one)
- Offering a “too good to be true” investment opportunity
- Asking if you would support a charity that is close to their heart
- Telling a sob story and asking for your personal information
What Can Facebook Users Do To Prevent Becoming a Victim?
There’s not a lot you can do but reviewing and strengthening your privacy settings is always a good idea.
- Within Facebook, click on your profile picture in the top right of the page
- Click Settings & privacy in the dropdown menu
- Click Privacy Checkup to have Facebook take you through your settings and make changes, or
- Click Privacy Center to walk through all of your settings manually.
What Can I Do If I am a Victim?
If your friends are telling you that you’ve been cloned, or you notice it yourself, report the fake page to Facebook as quickly as possible. To do so:
- Go to the fake page (it isn’t a bad idea to search for your name occasionally to see if there is one out there you don’t know about)
- Click on the … on the right side of the page
- Click on Find support or report
- Follow the on-screen instructions and file a report
In the end, the best way to avoid this scam is to be careful about friend requests. Never automatically accept a request without checking the person’s profile and also checking to see if it is coming from someone to whom you are already connected. If anything looks fishy, reach out to that person using an alternate method and see if it is legit.