We interviewed Faye, the victim of a Facebook cloning scam last week. The story demonstrates the very real dangers of being too cavalier with our communications on the world’s largest social networking site.
The names of the people in this interview have been changed.
How did it start?
Faye: When I logged into Facebook on Sunday evening and saw that I had a pending friend request. I don’t have too many friends on Facebook so a pending friend request is quite rare. I clicked the icon and saw that it was an old neighbour of mine that we keep in touch with, called Michael. I am already Facebook friends with Michael so I didn’t understand why he was asking me to be a friend again.
Did you accept the request?
Faye: Yes. I just figured he’d accidentally deleted me or something. I mean it looked real, his name and his profile picture that I don’t think he’s ever changed since he created his account! I had no reason to doubt it wasn’t real.
What happened once you accepted the friend request?
Faye: I accepted it and that evening I just carried on checking through my newsfeed. We have family that live in Australia so we use Facebook primarily to keep in contact with them and see what they were up to. Nothing unusual happened that evening, though I saw that Michael was “active” on Messenger but he didn’t speak to me
It all started the next morning when I logged in and saw that Michael has sent me a chat message a few hours ago. The message said he was abroad on holiday, but he had lost it wallet and was stuck and couldn’t get home. The message was very panicked. He had send 3 or 4 messages to me explaining what had happened before I even logged in and saw them. He was basically asking me to send him money.
How did you respond?
Faye: He is married so my first question was whether his wife Cath was okay. He said she was with him but had no money. As soon as I replied he would reply back, each message seemed more panicked. He was asking for £500 for a ticket home, and that he’d pay me back the moment he landed back home. I asked him how he wanted me to pay and he said there was a Western Union shop near him and that I could wire the money.
Were you suspicious?
Faye: Well I thought the whole thing was very strange, but I didn’t think for a second it was a scam and that it wasn’t really Michael I was talking to.
Did you send the money?
Faye: Yes. Not all of it, I told him I could only send £200 as that was all I could get at such short notice, and that he’d have to ask others for the rest. He said that was fine.
Then what happened?
Faye: A few hours after I sent him the money I sent a message back asking if he got it. There was no response. I never heard from “Michael” again and never saw that £200 again. Western Union would later confirm the money had been picked up at the other end.
I called his wife, Cath. I’m not sure why I didn’t do that before. She was very confused when I asked if they had received the money. She asked what money, and that they have been home, which is about an hour’s drive from me, the whole time. That’s when the penny dropped that I had been scammed.
I told Cath that someone must have broken into Michael’s Facebook account to send me those messages, but after a long discussion and some digging we worked out that someone had actually created a duplicate account with Michael’s name and photo and started sending requests to Michael’s friends, including me. I know now it’s called Facebook cloning. They had cloned Michael’s account to scam his friends, including me.
We spent the rest of the day warning all of Michael’s friends to not accept the friend request, and getting our friends to report the duplicate account as fake. A few days later Facebook had removed the account, but it had already befriended about 60 of Michael’s friends. I don’t know if any of them were scammed though.
So what happened?
Faye fell for a Facebook cloning scam mixed with the “friend in crisis” scam.
She was never talking to Michael, her friend. It was an imposter who had created a clone account and tricked her into accepting a friend request, which is a classic Facebook cloning scam.
The scammer them proceeded to carry out the “friend in crisis” element of the scam by pretending to be a friend of the victim in a crisis to try and trick the victim into handing out money to help.
For more information on Facebook cloning scams, how to avoid them and how to stop crooks from cloning your account to scam your friends, read our article here.