Facebook scammers are using a clever technique to separate your from your hard-earned cash. Scammers are cloning the Facebook profile of a person, and then reaching out to that person's friends and family to ask for cash. These requests for cash seem legit, but are actually just an elaborate plot to steal your money. Here's what you need to know about these Facebook cloned profile scammers, and how to defend yourself from them.
1. Typical Cloned Facebook Profile Tactics
A county sheriff's office in Kentucky recently released an official scam warning about these shady Facebook tactics. The sheriff's office notes, "messages have been sent to people asking to have money wired for various reasons, some of which include vehicles needing repair, medical or personal expenses."
In order to prevent the "real" Facebook profile holder from seeing what's going on, the scammer will also generally block the real owner from seeing the cloned page. The cloned page will use the same profile image and personal info from the real page to make their fake page seem legit.
2. Take Measures to Secure Your Facebook Profile
A scammer will have a much harder time pretending to be you on Facebook if you take a few simple precautions. A scammer can't make a convincing clone of your profile if you don't publish your data publicly. News24 has a step-by-step guide to changing your privacy settings:
"1. Do not accept friend request from people you do not know.
2. Delete all people you do not know from your friends list.
3. Edit your Facebook privacy setting by clicking on the Gear icon.
· Select “Privacy settings”
· Next to “Who can see my stuff” and “Who can see your future posts” select “Friends”.
· Select “Limit past posts” and confirm.
· Select “Timeline and Tagging” and change all the settings to “Friends”.
4. Change your photo albums privacy settings. Set the privacy settings of each album on your profile so that only your friends can see your photo albums.
5. Change your Profile and Cover pics on a regular basis.
6. Post a comment on your home page informing all your friends not to accept a second friend request from you and to inform you in case they do get one."
3. Facebook Cloning Scams Are Cyclical
Facecrooks, a site about Facebook hoaxes and scams, has an interesting story about a teenage girl named Morgan Pentecost. She allegedly was the victim of Facebook profile cloning nearly a dozen times.
Facecrooks notes that it can be very difficult for law enforcement officials to do anything about these kinds of scams:
"A district attorney in Tennessee also said that the fake pages weren’t illegal because they don’t qualify as either identity theft or stalking. In order to be identity theft, Pentecost’s image would need to be used for monetary gain, and in order to be stalking, she would have to be contacted repeatedly. Neither has happened, and thus the law’s hands are tied."
Facebook hoaxes and scams are often cyclical, so a person may experience the same scam more than once over the years.
4. Use Good Judgement to Verify Facebook Identities
The video above highlights the story of a grandmother, Ruth Wilson, who was scammed by someone pretending to be her grandson.
Use basic common sense to protect yourself. If someone claiming to be a friend or family member reaches out to you on Facebook and asks for money, you should verify their claims by talking with them in person or over the phone. You should never give money to people over the Internet, or share your personal financial info.
5. How to Report Facebook Profile Scammers
So scary! I cant believe someone cloned me on Facebook! Be on the lookout for these Facebook clone scams! http://t.co/ifOzHTmG
— Austin (Prime) Moore (@AustinPrime) February 6, 2013
Facebook has a whole section of their site devoted to reporting problems, which you can access here. You should also talk to local law enforcement in your area if you or your friends have been scammed by a fake profile. Even if the scammer isn't located in your geographic area, your local police department may still be of some help.