Facebook cloning: It’s touched most of us.
You get a friend request from someone you thought you were already friends with. A little red light goes off in your mind, but then you think, “Maybe she accidentally unfriended me and is re-connecting.” So you click on Accept Friend. After all, she is your friend.
Except it isn’t your friend making the request. It’s an online scammer. He’s stolen photos and information from her real Facebook profile and used them to create a new account that looks just like the real one. He even copied a few posts to the new profile so it really looks like it is the genuine thing.
Now that you’re friends with the person running the cloned profile, he messages you (as your friend), with a sad story and a request for cash. That little red light goes off in your head again and this time you don’t reply. Next thing you know, your “friend” is posting to your wall asking for money. It’s uncomfortable, but you don’t know what to do so you do nothing. Now your “friend” starts abusing you online.
Having had enough, you contact your real friend to confront her. Of course, she has no idea what you’re talking about because it wasn’t her you’ve been interacting with. This is Facebook cloning.
A con game with a new twist
This scam isn’t new; it’s the same basic trickery as when you get spam mails or phone calls saying your relative died and left you a fortune, or you won a prize but need to pay a “handling fee” in order to get it. The scammer pretends to be someone you trust in hopes of your opening your wallet to them. And it works: most of us won’t ignore a friend in need.
5 actions for preventing Facebook cloning
- Control who can access your information. Click the padlock at the top right of your Facebook page, then click on “Who can see my stuff?”. If it is set to ‘public’, change it to ‘friends”.
- Share only with friends. Whenever you post or share, make sure you are making it viewable only to friends, not to the general public.
- Use a complex password. Yes, it’s a pain. Do it anyway. Click the ‘gear icon’ on the top right of your page, then cick on ‘general’. Next to ‘password’ click ‘edit’. Your password should be at least 10 characters and include upper and lower case letters, a number, and a symbol (!@#$%^&*, etc.). TIP: Every additional character increases your password’s security exponentially.
- Don’t authorize all apps. Be choiceful about the programs that request permission to access your Facebook profile. Many ask for more permission than they need in hopes you’ll just accept without reading to learn what they’ll do with that access. Click the ‘gear icon’, then Account Settings, then Apps (on the left). A list of apps will appear on the right. These are the apps you’ve granted permission to access your Facebook profile in some way. To see what you’ve authorized, click ‘edit’ next to any app. Reduce permissions as much as possible and remove any apps you no longer need.
- Don’t accept friend requests unless you know you are on the page of the real person. Never accept from an email: it could take you to a site that looks like Facebook but is actually a phishing site trying to get more information from you – like your Facebook password. Always go to the known page of the person and accept the friend request there –if you are convinced it’s legitimate. TIP: If they are already on your friend list, don’t accept a new request. Remember, having friends in common is not proof the requestor isn’t a clone, only that your friends have accepted a friend request from them.
What should you do if your Facebook profile gets cloned?
- Put a post on your real profile wall telling friends your profile has been cloned and warning them to not accept a second friend request from you.
- If the scammer hasn’t blocked you from seeing the profile clone, go there and find out who has already accepted the friend request. Ask them to unfriend the fake profile.
- Report the scam profile to Facebook, who will remove it.