We’ve all been seeing a rash of Facebook account cloning. You see it when you get a friend request from someone that you’ve already friended. If you have a lot of Facebook friends, you may just think, “Oh, I thought we were already friends,” and accept the invitation. Shortly thereafter, you’ll get a private message from your new friend. It starts out innocuous. “How are you doing?” Then the scam starts. It may take you a while to realize that your friend wouldn’t really be trying to borrow a pile of money or get you to invest in something. By then, it may be too late.
I first wrote this in 2017, and updated it in 2021 because Facebook changed their user interface. They’re probably going to change it again. It will also look different on a phone than on a computer. The settings are the same, but it may take a while to find them.
If your account gets cloned, you may think you’ve been hacked. Don’t worry. You haven’t. Nobody’s figured out your password and broken into your account. They just followed these simple steps:
- First, they copy your profile picture and cover photo onto their computer.
- Then they create a new Facebook account using your name and a throwaway email address.
- They set the profile pic and cover photo to the ones they saved from your real account.
- Finally, they click on the “Friends” tab on your real account and start sending friend requests to everyone.
There’s a quick ‘n easy way to prevent that fourth step.
This will bring up a window that includes “Who can see your friends list?” If the button to the right of it says, “Public,” click on it.
This brings up a set of options. There are some standard ones at the top, and then it will go on to include all of your friend lists (if you’ve created any).
I like mine being on “Friends” or “Friends except acquaintances.” That way, when one of my friends is looking for another of my friends on Facebook, they can just go to my friend list and find them. If you prefer nobody being able to see who you’ve friended on Facebook, use the “only me” setting.
When you get a friend request from someone that sets your Spidey-senses a-tingling, don’t just hit that “confirm” button. Search your friends list to see if you’re already friends. Click on their name to see their page. Warning signs of a cloned account are:
- They have hardly any friends, and the ones they have are all people you know as credulous or careless.
- There are no timeline posts and no pictures (other than profile and cover).
- The name and username don’t match (see picture below). This can also happen when you have friends without much computer and/or Facebook experience that don’t know to set their username.
Whenever I get a friend request from someone I think is a scammer with a cloned account, I always report it to Facebook and tell my real friend about it so they can notify their friends to be careful. You might want to do the same!