Beware of Facebook Cloning

By Tracey Dowdy

How many friends do you have on Facebook? Are they actually friends or are they friends of friends? Maybe, you’re someone who accepts anyone’s friend request, friend or foe, stranger or bestie.

No matter where you fall on that spectrum, you’ll want to be aware of another Facebook scam that’s making the rounds. Hackers are cloning Facebook accounts in order to mine for data, photos, or spread spam and viruses.

I know, I know, it seems every week someone posts a warning about another threat to your privacy, ownership of your photos…

How it works: Hackers copy your profile information and steal any of your photos they can to create a duplicate of your account. Once the new account is created, they block you and send friend requests to everyone on your friends list.

From there, they’ll data mine your friends as they accept your request and turn around and do the same to them, and so on, and so on, and so on… The hackers use the fake profiles for a variety of money-making schemes, one of the most common being what’s referred to as “the Grandma Scam.” Posing as a family member or close friend, they pretend they’re stranded and need money for gas, that their credit cards or wallet has been stolen, that they’ve been in some kind of accident and need money for medical bills…you name it, they’ll try it. Unfortunately, sometimes unsuspecting friends and family assume it’s all above board and send money.

They also use the accounts to steal personal information. Because the victims think they’re talking to a friend, they’re far more likely to reveal personal information making it easy for the hacker to steal their identity.

To ensure you don’t become a victim of cloning, make sure your privacy settings are high. Click on the little padlock on the top right side of your Home page to check your settings and see who you’re allowing to view your information, photos, and posts.

In addition, never automatically accept a second friend request from someone you’re already friends with. Instead, send a message to the original profile or inquire via email or text and ask if they’ve sent the request. If they haven’t, report the new page to Facebook and warn your friends about the duplicate.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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