Fake Facebook accounts and what to do if your profile has been cloned?
Chances are we have all encountered a similar situation.
You get a friend request of a random Facebook profile, who’s this? I’ve never heard of this person; they are not friends with any of my friends. You have a look at the profile. It turns out you are being offered nude pictures or fraudulent get rich quick schemes ..….DELETE….an easy fake profile to identify and get rid of.
But what about those friend requests whereby a picture appears and its Jane Bloggs a colleague from your office. You recognise the person, the profile already has friends which are mutual, you check out the profile there are other picture of Liz on there, it all seems ok……. ACCEPT.
However, this turns out to be a fake profile.
How many Fake Accounts are there on Facebook?
The true figure is unknown, but Facebook estimate that fake accounts represent approximately 5% of its worldwide monthly active users. To give you an example in numbers and to show how endemic this problem is between April 2019 and September 2019 Facebook removed 3.2 billion Fake Accounts!! 3.2 Billion!! That’s more than the population of China and India put together!
What is the purpose of Fake Accounts?
There may be a legitimate reason for generating a fake account. Really??
The only example I can think of that may provide a genuine reason for a fake account would be a “pseudonym account”. Pseudonym accounts are utilised to conceal an individual’s true identity.
How can that be a genuine reason you might think!?
These accounts are usually established to prevent the individual being searched on Facebook and this could be for professional and safety reasons, you may be a social worker, a judge, police officer or in another profession that requires an element of caution whilst remaining in contact with friends on Facebook.
Should this still be classed as fake account? I’ll let you decide.
Now, the dark side, the vast majority of fake Facebook accounts are established for nefarious activities. A few typical examples below to give you an idea of the main reason behind the fake account before returning to consider Scenario 2 in more detail:
- BOTS, specifically Spambots and Likebots
Spambots – Established for the purpose of spamming Facebook Groups with ads.
Likebots – These are accounts made to Like Pages and Posts. If you do a search of the internet you will find many sites offering their service.
These accounts are set up to spy on another individual.
Defined by Wikipedia asFlame wars or upsets people on the Internet by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion, either for the troll's amusement or a specific gain.
Scenario 2 – The Impersonator
Scenario 2’s fake account has been set up by a so-called Impersonator, this style of fake account is known as Facebook Cloning.
So, your friend starts messaging you and says “why are you sending me a friend request”? “I’m already friends with you”?
Straight away you think, I’ve been hacked, I am the target when in reality although it is your profile that has been impersonated for the scam, the real target is your friends!
The intention of these fake accounts is to deceive your friends into accepting the friend request providing the scammer with access to your friends Facebook account and personal information contained therein.
Many Facebook users display a lot personal information about themselves within their profile; name, also known as names, date of birth, contact information, workplace history, school information, relationship status.
All this information can be used by the scammer to perform social engineering scams on your friends.
This could be from asking them for personal information to clicking a malicious link or even asking them for money all the whilst your friend thinks they are communicating with you.
How can this be prevented?
Unless you have lived under a pseudonym all your life, never had a picture taken and lived on desert island with no contact from anyone, unfortunately there is no way that you can prevent yourself being cloned on Facebook!
All a scammer needs to start this scam is a picture of you and your name and away they go.
If you think that your account has already been cloned report this to Facebook.
Click on the offending profile, then click on the 3 dots, you will see an option for Find Support or Report Profile, follow the process. This also the process if you think you have already accepted a fake profile friend request.
You can unfollow this account immediately but this wont make Facebook aware that it is a scammer.
To prevent any potential scammer having access to your friends you will also need to hide your fiends list.
Hiding your friends list will prevent the scammer knowing who to send a friend request to.
How to hide your friends list on Facebook?
Open your Facebook account via a website not the app.
Click on your profile then click on friends.
Your friends list will open up. You will see on that page a pencil icon.
Click on the pencil icon > Edit Privacy > Edit Privacy Tab will open up
You will then see another drop down menu under the Friends List option.
Set this to Only Me. Your friend list is now private.