We’re all familiar with the warning to be cautious when accepting emails or social media requests from people we don’t know. Now it’s important to use caution when accepting friend requests from those we do know. Here’s why.
- Scammers will setup a fake ‘imposter’ Facebook account using your friend’s name and maybe two or three of their photos. Then they will send you a friend request.
- Because the friend request comes from someone you know, you’re less likely to be skeptical about it.
- Additionally, because a few of your common friends will have already been duped into the scam, when you see the request come in, you’ll see that you have several friends in common and that will further reassure you that the request is legitimate.
At this point, the snowball effect begins. The people behind these scams seek to build massive databases of names and personal information for identity theft, social engineering, and hacking into accounts.
You and those you know, who may have their Facebook content marked as ‘viewable by my friends and their friends’ are exposed to having all their content and list of friends stolen and misused.
So, for this reason, be VERY careful when accepting friend requests on Facebook even from people you know.
What To Do if You’re the Target
If someone has setup an imposter account pretending to be you, don’t post a message saying “my account has been hacked” because then your friends won’t know which account to trust. Explain that your account hasn’t been hacked, but that someone setup a new ‘fake / imposter’ account in your name and that you’re reporting it. Then follow the instructions on this page to report it and have it shut down.
Identification and Prevention – 3 Easy Steps
Here are three easy steps to identify and prevent fake accounts. (source)
- Take a few seconds to look and see if you are already friends with that person. If so, the new one is likely fake.
- Glance at the profile for the person making the request. Does it look legitimate? Often the fake accounts have only a few simple posts.
- Communicate with the person making the request. Send a message: “Hi ____, I’m just making sure this is really you.” If they reply by telling you that Facebook is giving away a million dollars, it’s probably fake.
If it’s fake, take a moment to report it quickly before the scam spreads. Use the steps below.
How to Report and Shut Down Imposters
Because this is becoming a very prevalent problem, Facebook has improved the mechanism for reporting it. Follow the instructions shown below. Click the image for a larger view. In step 4 you can indicate whether someone is pretending to be you or someone you know.
Here are some additional articles on the topic of Facebook safety and how to avoid Facebook scams.
- Facebook and the Illusion of Protecting Your Personal Information and Privacy (9 Feb 2013)
- Facebook Friend Request – Safety and Security Guidelines for Accepting, Evaluating, Identifying and Discerning Fake from Authentic (6 Feb 2011)
- How to Identify and Report Fake Facebook User Accounts (30 Oct 2015)
- On Facebook use Caution When Approving Friend Requests (23 Jan 2015)
- Tech Q&A: Why do scammers create fake Facebook accounts? (30 Oct 2015)
Facebook has an official ‘how to report things‘ page.
You can view all Facebook support requests in your support inbox, including reporting of user accounts.