Facebook account cloning is a relatively easy scam for cybercriminals to carry out. What's scary about this scam is how easy it is to fall for. Put simply, Facebook account cloning involves making a copy of a Facebook profile using information that is readily available to the public.
How do cybercriminals clone a Facebook account?
- A new Facebook account is created using a copy of your profile photo and any other public photos.
- Friend requests will be sent to those who appear on your public friends list.
- The new account will now be used to take on your identity. Cybercriminals can now communicate with your friends and family, make posts, and do anything they'd like, while others think that you are the one behind the actions.
They may benefit in minor financial ways by recommending subpar products to your friends to convince them to make purchases or conduct a phishing attack to collect their financial information. Also, they could message your contacts posing as you with an elaborate scenario that requires financial help — for example, sending a message saying that they've been mugged and need financial assistance to get back home.
While many of us would like to believe that our friends are savvy enough to avoid scams like this, when they're carried out in your name, using the trust that you've built with one another, they're more likely to fall for the trick.
The process of Facebook account cloning is easy and takes only a few minutes to complete. While this prank may have been played by girls back in junior high to cause minor embarrassment to the victim, when conducted by cybercriminals, the effects can be much more severe and cause financial harm to those contacted by the cyber-criminal. It's important to know that account cloning isn't a hack or an exploit. It's a result of scammers using information that you've made publicly available to scam your family and friends.
How Can I Protect Myself From Facebook Account Cloning
- The best way to avoid having your Facebook account cloned is to ensure that your privacy settings are set such that as much of your information is visible to friends only. Facebook offers settings to make your friends list visible only to you or to friends only, as well as ways to make your photos and posts visible only to those you've approved as a friend.
- Make sure only to accept friend requests from those you know personally. If a friend or family member has been victim to Facebook account cloning, this puts you at risk of being scammed. If you receive a friend request from someone who already appears on your friends list, check in with the friend by text or phone call to ensure that it was, in fact, your friend who created the duplicate Facebook account.
- If you receive a message from a friend asking for money, contact them, or a close family member off Facebook to ensure that the situation is legitimate.
Avoid falling victim to scams conducted through Facebook account cloning scams by activating browser protection. Browser protection tools block scams, phishing pages, and alert you when websites are too new to be trusted on the web.