Data has become the most critical resource in today’s world, and your personal information is no different. With everything about your life available on social media, it is not that difficult for those with ill intentions to find out everything they need to know about you and use it.
Facebook is a popular social media platform, which is also why scammers turn to it routinely. They can hack into accounts, pretend to be someone you know, get personal information from you, and even create a fake account with your name and details. One recent technique of social engineering is Facebook cloning. This post talks about what Facebook cloning is, how it can affect you and how to prevent it.
What is Facebook account cloning?
Facebook account cloning is a social engineering technique that has recently been gaining popularity with scammers. Your information that is already available on your Facebook page is used to create a copy of your Facebook account. While this does not entail hacking into your account, it could still be a significant cause for concern. A fake account with publicly available information from your existing account can seem entirely legitimate.
They might even add several people from your friend list to make it look more authentic. This not only makes the account look legitimate but also gives them easy prey who they can scam.
What can scammers do with Facebook account cloning?
There are several things scammers can do with a clone of your Facebook account. Some of the most common ways this technique is used are:
- The scammers could send malicious links to people on your friend list. These links could seem normal but might be hosts to malware that could infect their computer. This could then compromise their financial data, personal information, or location, and more.
- They could scam your friends into loaning them money by pretending to be you. This usually involves contacting many people on your friend list with some fake story designed to elicit sympathy. Your friends will then transfer the money into the scammer’s account, and your fake account might be deleted once they’ve done this to a few people. They will then move on to the next target.
- They can contact your friends and get personal information about you. This plays a significant role in attaining the details required to make your account look legitimate.
- They could post inappropriate content that could damage your reputation.
- They could take it a step further by reporting your real account and having it taken down. This adds to the legitimacy of their story and allows them to scam people with ease.
- They could carry out a simple bait and switch attack, where they show a lucrative deal or link to an attractive post on your feed. However, once your friends click on the link, it redirects them to a malicious app download that runs in the background, possibly extracting information from their system.
How do you know if your account has been cloned?
In most cases, when friends receive a suspicious friend request while they are already on your friend list, they tend to notice something fishy and notify you. Be sure to check out such warnings. If you doubt a case of Facebook account cloning, type in your name in the search bar on Facebook. If there are multiple accounts with your name, photographs, and details, your account has been compromised.
While not every report might be accurate, it is always a good idea to regularly check if your account is safe.
How to protect your Facebook account from being cloned?
Go to the “Settings & Privacy” option in your dropdown menu:
Next click on the “Settings” button:
On the left hand side of the page, click on “Privacy“:
The “Your Activity” section allows you to decide who can see the posts you upload. Public posts are seen by everyone, irrespective of whether they are friends, family, or strangers on the internet. Edit this section and change it to “Friends” or “Only Me” from “Public.” This limits the visibility of your posts, offering you an excellent first line of defense from scammers looking for accessible accounts to replicate.
With all of your posts hidden from strangers, the next step is to change the “How People Find and Contact You” option in Privacy. The last three options decide if people can look you up using your phone number or email id and whether other search engines outside of Facebook can link to your profile. Make sure to put in the maximum restrictions on these fields in order to protect your profile completely.
Another important step to protect your friends and family is to hide your friend list from the public. You can change this setting by clicking edit on the “Who can see your friends list?” row. Choose to remove “Public visibility,” and make sure to change it to “Friends” or “Only Me.” This ensures that your list of friends is not tracked by anyone. This protects them from social engineering techniques, as scammers will not know who to add to their friend list if they are pretending to be you.
Do regular privacy checkups to see the privacy settings and make any changes as and when you need to. Constantly reviewing the permissions and privacy settings will help make your account more challenging to replicate, thereby keeping you safe from scammers looking to clone your account.
The “Privacy Checkup” option is available in Facebook’s Quick HelpMenu, i.e., the down arrow in the top right of the screen:
Avoid clone account scams?
While it is important to avoid having your account cloned, it is equally important to avoid being scammed by a fake account as well. The best way to avoid being a victim of this hoax is by not accepting friend requests of people you either don’t know or have no shared connections with.
If you receive a request from a friend you are sure is already on your friend list, let them know that there was a request sent. Verify that they did send it, and only then respond to it. This would alert them to the possibility of a cloned account if they did not send the request.
What if your account is already cloned?
If your account has been cloned, and you do come to know about it, be quick to take action. Be sure to inform your friends about the cloned account immediately. Contact and notify them to ignore the fake profile. The best way to move forward is to report the account. The three dots next to the fake account home page offer you the option to ask for support or report the account. You can choose “Pretending to be someone” and then follow the subsequent instructions until the page has been reported.
Asking your friends to report the page is an excellent way to ensure that the account gets blocked quickly. Account cloning is a recent social engineering technique, but scammers rapidly develop new and innovative methods to use it. With so much information publicly available, it is one of the easiest ways to carry out identity theft, spread malicious software, and even scam people out of money.
While you do not need to panic in case of an account cloning, it is always best to take swift action. The quicker you identify the scam and report it, the sooner the page will be blocked. This also prevents the scammer from establishing a connection and carrying out the attack. Since this is a much simpler and subtle way than hacking into an existing Facebook account, many scams run this way. That is why it is essential to regularly check-in and update your privacy settings, friend list, and so on. It is also a wise idea to avoid accepting requests from people you are not familiar with, as it prevents you from being on the receiving end of a scam.
While social media is a great way to document important life moments and progress, it is also a platform that is open for the world to see. Be careful about what you post and who you allow access to it.