Circulating post warns about a scammer tactic in which your Facebook profile picture and name are taken and used to create a new Facebook account in your name. Some versions of the post claim that all or almost all of the accounts are being “hacked” or “stolen” via this method.
The tactic described is real. This tactic is known as “Facebook cloning”. All Facebook users should be aware of cloning and the security risks it poses. Note, however, that cloning cannot be accurately described as “hacking”. And, while the scam does regularly occur, it is not at all accurate to claim that “all” or even “almost all” Facebook accounts are being cloned. Please scroll down to the Detailed Analysis below for further information.
Almost all the facebook accounts are being stolen.. do not accept a 2nd invitation with my name. I don’t have two profiles!!!!!!
Copy and paste on your wall!!
❌❌❌ Urgent ❌❌❌❌
All the accounts are being hacked. The profile picture and your name are used to create a new facebook account. And then they want to your friends add them, your friends think it’s you and accept. From this moment, the pirates can write what they want under your name!! ….. Please do not accept a 2nd invitation from me!! Copy this message on your wall so that all your friends be warned!
Do not share. Make a copy / paste this message
Just in case! Protect your accounts.
Accounts are being hacked. Someone will take your profile picture, your name, and then create a new facebook account. Then they ask your friends to add. Your friends think it’s you and accept. From that moment, they can write whatever they want under your name. Please DO NOT accept a 2nd invitation from me. Copy this on your wall so your friends can see and be warned.
Unlike many “security warnings” that circulate via social media, this message describes a genuine security risk and Facebook users would do well to take notice. The post warns about a scammer tactic in which your Facebook profile picture and name may be taken and used to create a new Facebook account in your name.
Then, the post explains, the scammers send friend requests out from the fake profile and your friends may think it is you and accept. The scammers can then post messages that your friends may think were written by you. Thus, warns the message, you should not accept a 2nd friend request from people that you are already friends with.
In fact, the tactic described happens regularly and, as noted, it is indeed a genuine security risk. The tactic is known as “Facebook cloning”.
Before we delve into Facebook cloning more deeply, I should clarify some potentially misleading claims in various versions of the circulating message. The warning suggests that “accounts are being hacked”. A newer variant of the message that is labelled as “Urgent” even suggests that ‘ALL the accounts are being hacked’. However, Facebook cloning cannot be accurately described as hacking. As noted below, cloning involves using publicly available information from a Facebook profile to create a copy of that profile. It does not involve hijacking or compromising the victim’s original account as would happen if the account was actually hacked.
Another newer variant claims that “almost all the facebook accounts are being stolen”. But, again, it is not accurate to suggest that accounts are actually being stolen. Publicly available elements are being taken from targeted profiles and misused by the scammers, but these scammers have not gained access to – or stolen – the actual accounts.
Moreover, while cloning is a common threat on Facebook and many people have become victims to it, it is not true to suggest that “all” or even “almost all” accounts have been affected.
With those clarifications in mind, let’s discuss what cloning is, what Facebook clone scammers are hoping to achieve, and what you can do to protect yourself and your friends.
Facebook cloning is a tactic in which scammers create a fake Facebook profile by using images and other information stolen from a targeted user’s real Facebook profile. Using this stolen information, scammers may be able to create a profile that closely emulates the victim’s genuine profile. And the more profile material that the victim has set to “public”, the more detailed and believable the cloned account can appear.
As the circulating warning notes, after the scammers have created a fake profile, they can send friend requests to people on the targeted person’s friends list.
Some of the victim’s friends may accept this second friend request because they mistakenly think that the victim has accidentally unfriended them. Or, if they have a large number of Facebook friends, they may have simply forgotten that they were already friends with the victim and accept the second friend request. And, alas, there are more than a few Facebook users who are apt to immediately accept friend requests without due forethought.
After the scammers have added a few “friends” to the fake profile, they can then start sending scam messages in the name of their victim.
They may try to draw the friends into advance fee scams by claiming that the victim has won a large sum of money and offering the “friend” the chance to also win.
They may send messages that claim the victim has been stranded in a foreign country and needs a short-term loan to get out of trouble. Because the recipients of the message think they are talking to someone they know, they may agree to “loan” the money.
The scammers may also use the illusion of friendship to collect personal information from the victim’s friends. A clever cloner may even be able to commit identity theft by tricking the victim’s friends into divulging a large amount of their personal and financial information.
To protect yourself from becoming a victim of Facebook cloning, ensure that you use privacy settings that guard as much of your information as possible from strangers. Click the “lock” icon at the top right of your Facebook profile to check privacy settings and see who can view your stuff.
And, it is especially important to hide your friends list from prying eyes. If the clone scammers cannot see who you are friends with, they will not be able to send out fake invites to your friends. So, hiding your friends list can help to thwart clone scammers. To hide your friends list, open your profile and click on the “Friends” tab. Then, click the pencil icon on the right side and click “Edit Privacy”. In the “Who can see my friends” section, select “Only me” in the drop down list.
(Note that these instructions describe accessing Facebook from a computer web browser. If you are accessing Facebook from a mobile device or via an app, you may need to use a different method to access your privacy and freinds list settings).
If you find that your Facebook account has been cloned, you should report the fake account to Facebook. You should also let all of your friends know about the cloning attempt so that they will not be caught out by fake friend requests.
And, of course, as the circulating warning advises, be very cautious of any friend requests from people that you are already friends with.
Last updated: February 14, 2016
First published: January 19, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen