Facebook web page closeup with notificationsHas this happened to you yet? You get a notice from Facebook that someone you know, someone you are already friends with on Facebook, has sent you a Friend request. Don’t click that accept button! Chances are, your friend’s account has been cloned. Here’s how and why that happens.

What is a cloned account?

A cloned account uses the name and picture of a real Facebook user. Anyone can create a Facebook account and, although it is against the rules, use any name they wish. Facebook doesn’t verify a new user beyond an email message asking for a verification–of the email address! So scammers browse Facebook and create copycat accounts.

Why do scammers clone accounts?

Like any other cybercrime, cloned Facebook accounts are used to scam money from other users. Once a scammer creates a fake account, they will go through the Friend list of the real user and send Friend requests of the same people. The scammer can then look for personal information that can be used for identify theft, or to ask for emergency money via Facebook’s own payment system or some other e-payment system.

How can you know if you have been cloned?

If you are cloned, you may get messages from your Friends asking letting you know there is something weird about your account. You can also do a Facebook search for your own name at any time. If you find another account with your name and picture, it’s time to report it and get it removed. Fortunately, this is easy and Facebook usually takes action within a few days.

  1. Open the cloned page, then click More (the elipsis).
  2. Select Pretending to Be Someoneand follow the instructions.

You can hide your Friends list

You can prevent anyone from seeing who your Facebook Friends are by hiding your list. Remember though, that anyone who can see your feed can see some of your activity with Friends.

  1. Go to SettingsPrivacy, and Edit.
  2. Choose the audience who you want to see your Friends list.

Facebook is just one of many avenues criminals use to try and find and scam victims. Remember to treat any request for information or money with caution, and verify anyone who initiates contact with you. And if you are thinking about deleting your account, read this first!