Facebook scammers do ‘clone’ people’s accounts

One tactic scammers use on Facebook is “cloning,” which allows them to make a copy of someone’s profile and try to add that person’s friends.

Chain messages about account or data security regularly spread on Facebook. Although the people who spread these messages tend to have good intentions, not all of them turn out to be warnings of real threats.

Michael reached out to the VERIFY team to ask about one of these trending chain news stories. The message begins with “CLONED NOT HACKED” and then warns that scammers are using users’ pictures and names to create a new account and add the victim’s friends.

“From that point on, they can write whatever they want under your name,” the post warns. “Almost every account is cloned.”

THE QUESTION

“Clone” Scammers Facebook Accounts?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, scammers clone Facebook accounts.

WHAT WE FOUND

Facebook cloning, explains digital privacy firm NordVPN, is a technique whereby scammers use someone’s publicly available Facebook information to create a fake copy of that person’s profile.

“They don’t have to hack your Facebook profile, but they can still cause problems with their fake profile,” says NordVPN.

BitDefender, a cybersecurity company, and NordVPN say account cloning scammers try to send malicious links to the person’s friends, manipulate the person’s family and friends into giving them money with a fake story, the personal information Extract the victim’s friends from their friends to make the fake accounts look more convincing or jeopardize the person’s reputation by posting something inappropriate. Some of these scammers even try to report their victim’s legitimate account as a scammer.

A blog post from Walsh College confirms the chain message is correct when it says that receiving a friend request from someone you’re already friends with is a good indication of a cloned account. Alternatively, a person can verify if their account has been cloned simply by searching their name on Facebook.

Although Facebook doesn’t count how many fraudulent accounts it shuts down, it does track the total number of fake accounts, including fraudulent accounts it removes. It says it penalized 1.6 billion fake accounts in the first quarter of 2022, over 99% of which Facebook found itself. The social media company estimates that 5% of its monthly active users were fake accounts in the first quarter of 2022.

So how does anyone stop scammers from cloning their account? Well, there’s no foolproof way to do this. However, you can reduce the chances of your account being cloned with smart privacy settings.

BitDefender and NordVPN say you can make it harder for scammers to clone your account by setting your privacy settings so only your friends, or even just you, can see your information. BitDefender says you should prioritize hiding your friends list from the public and removing public visibility of future posts, photos, and profile information such as email address and phone number.

If your account has already been cloned, report it to Facebook. Accounts impersonating another account violate Facebook’s Community Standards, so Facebook will likely delete a clone account if reported as well. According to Facebook, there are two ways to report an impersonator.

The first option is to go to the clone account, click the three dots under the cover photo, select “Find support or report profile” and then follow the on-screen instructions. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can report a scammer using a Facebook report form.

More from VERIFY: Did you receive an SMS from the wrong number? It could be a scam

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Alley Einstein

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