You know your Aunt Mary has a Facebook profile. Her cat videos and “Remember When?” memes show up in your feed like clockwork.
When a new friend request from your spunky relative shows up, you hesitate. You wonder if perhaps she accidentally unfriended you and wants to add you back, but no, she is still showing up in your Friends list. You rationalize that she must have somehow locked herself out of her old account and started a new one. You accept the request, thinking doing so is harmless.
However, it may not be so safe. The person behind the new profile might actually be a seedy scammer with fraudulent motives. The practice is called Facebook cloning.
How Do They Do It?
Scammers choose an existing Facebook profile and start stealing information such as their photos, personal information and list of friends. They use this data to create a new, alternate profile with the same name and often even the same profile picture. They typically block the person they cloned to cover their tracks before they begin sending out friend requests to that person’s connections.
What Can Happen?
Once they have a virtual foot in the door, the scamming starts. The imposter may ask you for money, encourage you to click a link that leads to a phishing website or virus download, try to meet in person with you or even gain personal information about you in an attempt to steal your identity.
What You Should Do
If a friend or relative’s Facebook profile may have been cloned, contact them using a method besides Facebook: for instance, call, text or email them. Report an account for impersonation directly to Facebook.
How to Prevent It from Happening to You
Use Facebook privacy settings to prevent others from accessing your photos, friends list and other personal information. Limit the audience for your posts to people you know. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers and unfriend anyone you don’t know in real life.