Facebook cloning scams that involve a scammer setting up fake Facebook accounts of real people to trick their friends into friending them on Facebook are proving to be extremely successful.
Imagine the scenario…
A scammer sets up a Facebook account under your exact name. They copy your profile picture and cover photo and upload it onto the fake account.
Then they start sending friend requests to all of your friends – claiming to be you – claiming that you had your account deactivated and need to refriend all of your friends. From there the scammer can try and trick your friends – posing as you – in any number of different ways.
How many of your friends would accept the request thinking it was really you? Probably quite a few, right?
That essentially describes Facebook cloning scams. Scammers clone your Facebook account using information that is set to public – i.e. the username, profile picture and cover photo – and using the users friend list, which will probably be public as well – begin sending friend requests.
And if your friends do accept the fake friend request they are potentially leaving themselves open to any number of different scams.
For example the scammer, whilst pretending to be a friend, may share links that – when clicked – lead to malicious websites that could harbour malware or possibly a phishing attack.
The scammer may also play the classic “Facebook friend in crisis” scam that involves pretending to urgently need money because they are stuck abroad.
Or, if you are sharing too much information on your Facebook profile, the scammer could collect details about you that could be used for identity theft. For example, are the answers to your online accounts “secret questions” available on your profile? Your mother’s maiden name? Pet name? First school? Even your home address?
If a scammer clones the account of one of your friends and tries to add you then you need to be aware of how this scam works in order to protect yourself.
So if you receive a friend request from someone you are already friends with on Facebook then be immediately skeptical and confirm with your friend that it is actually them, through phone, email or in person.
If the account turns out the be fake you can report it by going to the account and selecting the … icon, select Report Account and select the option telling Facebook the account is pretending to be someone you know.
Because a Facebook cloning scam targets a users friends, you can stop your account getting cloned by hiding your Facebook friends list from non-friends. This stops a scammer from being able contact your friends after cloning your account, thus removing the motivation for doing so. You can hide your friends list by going to your profile, clicking Friends and selecting the pencil icon and selecting Edit Privacy.
And on a much broader note – as always, be careful what information you share on Facebook. Don’t give anyone access to your most personal information – assume that everything you upload to Facebook isn’t 100% safe and then you can’t go too far wrong.