My friends are telling me that a new Facebook account with my name and photos are friend requesting them. Am I being hacked?
Not necessarily. Rather, you may have fallen prey to one of the latest social media scams: cloning.
What is cloning?
Cloning, much like “catfishing,” involves someone pretending to be someone they’re not. Rather than using your pictures to try to become a new person, they try to duplicate everything about you online, also known as “identity spoofing.” With Facebook cloning, a scammer will create a completely new Facebook profile and will use everything they can see on your profile (profile picture, cover picture, education/work/relationship details, etc.) to duplicate your account. If your friends list is public, they will send friend requests to everyone using that fake profile.
Why would someone want to clone my Facebook profile?
Have you ever had a friend delete a social media account and start a new one to get away from the drama on their old account?
Have you ever forgotten a password to a website and created a brand new account with another email address to avoid the hassle of retrieving your password?
Starting new accounts isn’t a new thing, and cloners want to capitalize on that. As a result, when your friends see a new friend request from you, they might think that you started a new account on purpose for the reasons above, or because you “accidentally unfriended them.”
Once the cloner starts receiving accepted friend requests, they jump into action. Consequently, they pretend to be you by sharing “funny articles” with your friends, which are actually phishing sites meant to steal your friends’ personal information. Or they might frantically message your grandma and ask them for a loan, saying you’ve made a mistake and now owe someone money. Your grandma loves you and doesn’t know any better, so now she has given away her bank account information.
So here’s how to stop cloners from making you, your friends, and your family their next victims:
Lock down your profile.
Firstly, take a look at your security settings and see what the general public can see on your profile. Can anyone see where you work? Can anyone see where you go to school? If so, those are easy grabs for scammers to put on their fake profiles to entice your friends to think the fake profile is you.
Don’t let the public know who your friends are.
In addition to locking down your profile information, you also need to make sure your friends list is private. How can a cloner target your friends if they don’t know who your friends are?
First of all, be sure to search for your name every so often. This will help you spot fake profiles with your name and pictures. Also, on Catfish, Nev and Max search online for profile pictures. You can use that same trick – use Google reverse image search to see if your photos are being posted by others.
See something? Say something.
If one of your friends or family members have fallen victim to Facebook cloning, report it! And if you’re the one who has been cloned, spread the word. Your friends can help report your cloned page and avoid falling prey to the cloner’s tricks.