Regina Garson's Blog

How Not To Get Scammed By Fake Profiles On Facebook

Anybody who has been on Facebook for even a little while has run into a fake Facebook account, somebody pretending to be somebody else. Most people call them hackers, and immediately start reminding each other to change their passwords, and we definitely should keep our passwords secure. However, these folks are not actually hackers, so although it is a good idea to change your passwords every now and then, it is probably not going to do a whole lot of good in this case.

Most of the time, in the old-fashioned sense of the word “hacking,” what everybody is calling hackers on Facebook are not actually hackers at all. They are not breaking into, much less hacking, people’s accounts. They are stealing the whole profile. “Identity thieves” is the more accurate term to describe who they are and what they are doing. Despite the fact that we see them every day, we do not tend to associate identity theft with these Facebook scammers. However, what they are doing is cloning, or duplicating, people’s Facebook account and then going to their friends, sending them friend requests, all while pretending to be the person in the duplicated profile, inserting themselves into his/her life, in various kinds of ways and for various purposes, none of them good.

Most of the time, a person who has been cloned in this way does not know about it unless one of their friends lets them know. It really is important to communicate with each other on this. The biggest clue that an account is fake is that you are already friends with that person. Although one would hope that somebody lets us know as quickly as possible if our account has been cloned, it is a good idea to do a Facebook search on your own name every now and then to be sure somebody has not duplicated yours as well.

I have been on the Internet for a long time. When I first saw these cloned Facebook sites, I honestly thought it was just kids playing around hacking and I did not give it a whole lot of thought.

However, I was seriously wrong on that. These identity thieves are scammers, they know exactly what they are doing and they are swindling people out of their hard-earned money. Although some move quickly, others stay around a while, collecting information to pull off a larger scale identify theft. So just because a fake account has been around for a while, it is not okay, in fact, it could be just about as bad as it gets. The scams associated with the cloned Facebook accounts come in different forms.

Common Identity Theft Frauds On Facebook

  • Fake friend suddenly gets in touch to say they have been stranded somewhere far away, sob story as to why they have no funds, lost credit cards, stolen wallet, etc., they need cash to get home.
  • There are many variations of the need money now theme. It will generally seem realistic given your profile and friends. By the time they get to asking for money, these “fake friends” have generally stalked you and your real friends pretty well.
  • Some of the guys I know have been hit up in various grant and investment schemes.
  • Another friend ended up in some kind of extortion racket, with the identity thieves demanding money, like regular payments from him. He went to his local law enforcement, as well he should.
  • Other times, the fake account does not involve money, but the imposter will post links to various websites that have viruses, malware and/or phishing schemes (Charles, 2012).
  • Others post porn (some of which also has viruses associated with it) and some use them to sell sunglasses, etc., from the fake accounts. Therefore, they are using the cloned account to post/sell whatever in somebody else’s name.

If you find out that you have been targeted by any of the above, you need to let your friends know what is going on, so they will not accept the request by the fake friend account, until you get the matter resolved.

One thing to be aware of is that although it is a form of identity theft, this threat is to both the person who has been cloned and their friends and family as well. Everybody who may be affected in his or her circle really does need to know. Elderly people and people who are not around computers a lot, or who are not Internet savvy, are particularly vulnerable to being swindled and losing their money to these Facebook identity theft scammers who take advantage of the good-will, love and care between real friends.

Facebook is doing a lot better job than they were about shutting down the fake Facebook profile identity thieves. However, if nobody reports the fake accounts, these folks will continue doing what they are doing and getting away with it. I report every fake duplicate friend request I get. I do check first though.

Check with Your Real Friend First

When I get a suspected duplicate friend request, I double check my Friend list first to make sure somebody did not get aggravated with me, unfriend me, and then go “didn’t mean that,” but anyway, yea, I have done that a time or two. So, check in with that person first.

If you mosey over to their real Facebook page, sometimes you can see in an instant that they have been a victim of Facebook identity theft, because their other friends may have already posted to let them know. If you can’t tell from a visit to their wall, my first choice, if they allow it, is to go ahead and post there to let them know and ask if they got a new account or if they have been hacked (I know it is not honestly a hack, but that is what everybody calls it), and that will also let their other friends know that there may be a problem. If you cannot get in touch with them that way, message them, call them, or email them and ask what is going on with their account. Sometimes there really is a need for a new account. I know several folks who, for whatever reason, were not able to get back onto Facebook after they went to Windows 10, so they opened new accounts.

Facebook is a lot better than it used to be about taking the fake accounts down. In the past, I heard nightmare stories about people trying to report that there was a fake account impersonating them and going to all their friends and they would get a canned response that the site in question did not violate Facebook’s standards of decency. Maybe it did not violate their standards of decency, but it was plain old-fashioned identity theft, actually, it was modern online social media identity theft with all the problems that come with any other form of identity theft. Facebook is doing significantly better on that now. The thing is, for them to do anything about the fake accounts, they have to know about them and, for that reason, it is important to get the fake sites reported.

How to Report a Fake Facebook Profile Account

I am going to walk you through submitting a report about a fake account to Facebook (many moons ago, I taught computer courses at Virginia College, my teacher hat is on). Anyway, it may vary a little depending on your system. I work from a PC and use a computer browser (Firefox). I am sharing screen shots of the steps and how to work through them on my system. It may vary a little depending on where (computer, iPad, or smartphone) you access Facebook, but it will give you an idea what to look for and what you need to do.

Step 1. Before you report an account as fake, check in with your friend or family member to make sure they did not have to open a new account. If you determine that the account is indeed a fake account, go to Step 2.

Step 2. When you get a friend request, you notice that there is an option to accept or decline the friendship. Over to the side of that, beside where it says, “Message,” there are three little dots “…” If you click on those dots, you will have an option to either “Report” or “Block” the account, and sometimes “Send Money,” I don’t think so in this case. Although I generally block the fake accounts before I am done, I want to report it first. Therefore, I click “Report.”

Step 3. From there, you will see several different options. If it is indeed a fake account, what you want to do is report the fake profile to Facebook so they can remove it. Here, you want to check “Report this profile.”

Step 4. The next screen will give you several options. More than one may apply, but if I am reporting an account where someone is impersonating someone else, I generally check, “They’re pretending to be me or someone I know.”

Step 5. The next screen will give you an option to report the name of your friend whose account has been duplicated. After you fill in their name, you finish off by clicking the button at the bottom. And that is it. You are done. Since I do not have an active hacker scammer to report this instant, I do not have a screen shot on this step yet.

Step 6. Finally, block the account.

After you file the report on the fake account, Facebook will notify your real friend that a report has been made. After some bad experiences with these fake friend accounts, I tend to report every one of them I get and I do find that Facebook responds quickly.

How to Protect Yourself So You Can Have a Good Time on Facebook

Beyond reporting the fake accounts of your friends, there are things that you can do to reduce your own chances of having your own identity cloned by a Facebook identity thief scammer. First, it really is a good idea to change your password every now and then. Next, be aware of all those cute little things going around that ask you to share various pieces of personal information.  If it is asking a question that might be used as a “verify your identity” question with such things as credit and secure sites, just keep going. You do not want to take a chance on that one.

However, the most effective thing that you can do to protect your identity on Facebook is to make sure your Friend list is locked down and secure. Since these identity thief profile scammers go through people’s Friend lists to find their targets, the best thing that you can do to ensure the security of you and your own page is lock down your Friend list. They cannot send a friend request to all of your friends if they cannot get to your Friend list. So, lock it up.

How to Make Your Friend List Private

Go to your Friend list page, where it says “Manage,” and then click “Edit Privacy,” as shown below.

The next screen gives you several different privacy options. For maximum privacy and security, I suggest setting your Friend list so that you are the only one who can see it.

The thing with the fake accounts is not a little problem. If you do a Google search on “Fake Facebook Accounts,” there are apps out there ready to help anyone who wants to impersonate their friends and celebrities alike. One has to wonder why Google would even allow such on their engine, much less what kind of friend might find this is an interesting prank. All of that is an issue for another day though.

I do hope this helps. I sure do love Facebook, but I have also learned that whatever you do, you really do need to learn the ropes and how to take care of yourself and your family. Y’all be careful out there, stay safe and look out for each other. If you have any other helpful online safety and security hints, post them below in the comments.

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