Whatever you do, don’t accept my friend request! Now I’m sure you probably paused in your tracks reading that saying, “Why would you send a friend request if you didn’t want me to accept it?” Well the reason is it probably didn’t come from me.
Within the last month I’ve accepted friend requests from several people that I thought were already in my friends list. I assumed that they had deactivated their account for some reason and were restarting it. But what actually happened was someone faked their account. The fake account was complete with their cover photo as well as their profile photo, so it looks legitimate.
Soon after accepting the friend request, I got an instant message chat pop up. Although it seemed a little formal and a little odd because I had never had a Facebook chat with this person in the past, I thought maybe they had a question about something social media related. But the conversation never really went anywhere. Mostly generic “how you doing” type stuff. Since I was in the middle of a project I didn’t take time to engage the chitchat and closed the chat window. The next day my news feed showed a post from the “real” friend saying their account had been stolen. I immediately went in and unfriended the imposter account.
The reason Facebook accounts are being cloned is an attempt to scam the friends of the original account holder. The common sequence is to post a few things to make the page look legitimate, then send out friend requests to everyone on the original account holders friend list. Once those friends accept that request, the imposter can then send out a “plea for help”, banking on our sense of community and charity to help somebody in need.
Facebook has made it easy for imposters since any photos you share publicly on Facebook can be downloaded. You do have the option to make your photos visible only to friends but when you apply that to your cover photo and your profile photo, someone that might be a potential friend can’t verify it’s really you since they can’t see your picture.
While the fake accounts are not hacks and are not a threat to you, friends filter they use your name to take advantage of your friends. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
1. Change the visibility of your Friends List to make it visible only to friends. That way, an imposter won’t be able to harvest your friends, rendering their scam plot ineffective. To change the visibility of your friends list, go to Friends and click the pencil (edit), select Edit Privacy from the drop down list. Change your Friend List setting from Public to Friends.
2. Look Before Accepting – Before you accept a friend request from someone you think is already in your friends list, go look. Go to your Friends list and search for them. If you find them in your friends list, DON’T accept the request. Better still, click on their name and go to their profile page. Click the setting button to the right of the Message button. The drop down menu will give you a Report/Block option. Report the page to Facebook.
3. Don’t Fall For The Scam – Think about it, if you were needing help financially, would you publicize it on Facebook? More likely, you would contact your close friends and family directly. With smart phones, we have a full contact list at our fingertips. If you aren’t sure if the new friend request or the plea for help is legit, call, email or message them directly (not through the new page.)