Facebook Imposters by Mark Ellis

Have you ever encountered a person pretending to be you on Facebook?

Have you ever received a friend request from someone you’re already friends with?

It’s happened to a lot of people. It’s called account cloning and it’s very much on the rise.

The reason people engage in account cloning is to gain access to an audience to scam people.  Think about it – rather than cold calling or cold emailing, it’s much more effective to get people’s attention through familiarity.  You’re more likely to read about or listen to something from your high school pal in Iowa than you are from someone you don’t know.

Here’s what account cloners do:  First, they look for some unsuspecting person with a healthy amount of Facebook friends. The cloner then sets up an account using an email that they already have in their possession.  Next, they use your name to set up the account and, since Facebook profile pictures and cover photos are public, they download yours and use them to set up the cloned account.

And voilà!  The cloner now has an account, that for their purposes, looks exactly like you.

To conceal their activity from you, the cloner blocks you so that you cannot find them with Facebook’s search engine.  Your friends list is their next target.  The cloner goes to the Facebook page of the real you and, with one click, starts viewing your friends list.  They then start sending friend requests by clicking away at the “Add Friend” button beside each of your friends.

In many cases, your friends will accept the cloner’s friend request without question.  A few will be surprised to receive a request from you because they think you’re already friends, but they’ll accept the request.  Your friends who are really paying attention will not accept the request and contact you with the often-terrifying news that someone is pretending to be you on Facebook.

The cloner then starts private messaging your friends to convince them, in one way or another, to part with their money.

If you’re the victim of a cloned account, don’t freak out too much.  Your real account has not been compromised or hacked.  The cloner only has access to your friends who accepted their friend request. It’s just annoying, embarrassing, or probably both. 

If your account has been cloned, notify Facebook as soon as you learn about it.  Go to Facebook’s help desk and look up “report an imposter account” (or follow this link https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/295309487309948 and fill out the form).

If someone with whom you are already friends sends you a friend request, don’t accept it.  Reject the request and mark it as spam.  And it’s always nice to notify your friend who has been victimized.  It is also helpful to your friend to report it to Facebook (follow this link https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/295309487309948 and fill out the form).

It’s so true – “an ounce of prevention IS worth a pound of cure.”

It’s very easy to avoid becoming a victim of account cloning; simply change the privacy settings of your friends list so that only you can see it.  Think about it: if the goal of a cloner is to gain access to your friends, it’s a lot less tempting to clone an account of a person who conceals their friends.

To conceal your friends list, follow this procedure:

  1. On your page or wall, scroll down to Friends panel, which can be found on the left side of the screen.
  2. Click on the down arrow in the upper right corner of the Friends panel and then click “Edit Privacy”
  3. Make sure the “Only me” option is selected.

I hope this is helpful!  Happy Facebooking! 

 Mark J. Ellis (Marcos)