We Need to Talk About Facebook Cloning and Why It’s Happening
It is something that I have seen and been asked about many times, so allow me to set the stage for this:
You may have seen a Facebook friend request from someone you are already friends with, or have seen that your profile has been, essentially, mimicked and may be wondering why.
It's a scam, ladies and gentlemen, along with something you can try to avoid.
I have seen this a lot, and have heard people say that their Facebook pages were hacked. While the page wasn't hacked, it may have been cloned to match yours. The scammers will then reach out to people on your friends list, who will inquisitively wonder why they are getting another request from you and accept it because, well, it's you. They like you. They want to be friends with you; which is exactly what the scammers want.
Why, you ask? Money -- which can be the root of all evil. Once the scammers have accumulated enough of your friends, they will begin to reach out to them with messages asking for money -- whether it be for a cash grab business scam, a contest, or even the old "I'm in a foreign country and need to borrow money to get back home" thing. It has been reported, in some cases, that these scammers will reach out for personal information to commit identity theft.
The big question is what can you do to avoid these things from happening?
According to hoax-slayer.net, it may be "difficult" to eliminate this risk of getting your account cloned completely, but there are ways that you can certainly help protect yourself. It mostly stems from your "Privacy" settings.
"The more of your stuff that is publicly available, the more effective a profile cloning attempt will likely be. Unfortunately, many Facebook users still have much of their information set to 'Public'. These comparatively open accounts are easy targets for cloning scammers," says the article from hoax-slayer, who offers the following advice and steps to take.
1. Hide your friends list
"It is especially important to hide your friends list from prying eyes," they say. If the scammers can't see who you're friends with, they won't be able to send the invites. To do so, go to your profile on Facebook and click the "Friends" tab. You will see a pencil on the right hand side. Click it and then click "Edit Privacy." Where it says, "Who can see your friend list?", select "Only Me" in the drop down.
2. Run a "Privacy Checkup"
Hoax-slayer recommends that you set these settings to either "Only Me" or "Friends" instead of "Public." To find this, click the "Lock" icon on the top of your profile page and set that in the drop down away from "Public."
3. View your profile as public
In that same place, a couple of spots down you will see the "Who can see my stuff" portion of the page. You'll see a spot that says "View as" under the "What do other people see on my timeline?"
You'll now be able to see what the public can see on our timeline. Hoax-slayer says to check your "Friends" and "Photos" tabs to see what people who are not your friends can see. If you have completed the other steps, then the public should only be able to see just your Profile and Cover photos because, unfortunately, you can't do much about that on Facebook. If you notice that all of your photos are visible, here's the next step.
4. Check who can see your photos
While the Profile and Cover photos are still visible, you can make sure additional photos that scammers could grab can be privatized. Click the "Photos" tab on your profile and click the "Albums" tab. Hoax-slayer says that some of the albums have an option below where you can change the privacy to "Friends" or "Only Me." If you can do it, you should do it. If you can't, it becomes a little more of a hassle because you would have to choose photos individually to set these privacy settings. Still, although its painstakingly annoying to go one photo at a time, it is still worth your privacy.
5. Check who can see other information on your profile
You have probably seen on your, and other friends', profiles that your favorite books, movies and groups can be visible. As silly as it may sound, Hoax-slayer says to privatize that stuff as well. Simply put, if scammers can add that information, it makes their fake profile more believable. To put a stop to that noise, click the "More" tab to make sure that each section is not set to "Public." That's not all.
"You can also hide sections completely by clicking the 'More' tab and selecting 'Manage Sections'", they say.
6. Really check out your privacy settings and familiarize yourself
Make sure you check and change your settings in the "Privacy Settings and Tools" section. At the right of the "lock" icon, go to "Settings" in the drop down and go to "Privacy." Check out all of the options to make sure you set them the way they need to be.
What if your not a technological savant? What if you are not sure what these mean? Hoax-slayer says, in all essence, privacy is a marathon, not a sprint.
"It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the options in the section, so it’s worthwhile taking the time to check it out."
7. Re-check your "Public" profile
Go back to the third step and make sure everything is as non-visible to the public as you want them to be. If not, repeat the steps to ensure you are comfortable with everything.
This is a crazy world we live in and we need to make sure we are all protected. If something seems crazy, like a repeat "Friend Request", and you question it, take an extra step. Shoot that person a text, go back to your friends list to see if you are already friends with them and just make sure you have your bases covered. It's sad that we have to do these things but its necessary.
If you have discovered your account has been cloned, make sure you report it to Facebook -- which you can do right here. Also, let your friends and family know to not accept a friend request from you because, well, they already have with the actual you.
Feel free to share this article to let your friends and family know how to protect themselves. Educating them, even if you think you are being annoying, could be the difference in someone falling for a scam. Most of us try to see the best in people, but sometimes, people can just be awful.
Here's to a safe and happy social media world!