A fake “you” could be harvesting your friends

Andy sipped his piping hot, home-made mocha coffee from a white, ceramic mug. The words “My java is better than yours” stood out prominently on the side of the cup. He picked up his purple smartphone and punched in the access code. When he opened his Facebook application, he spotted a friend request on the notification bar.

The notification was from Craig Johnson, a former co-worker from a previous job three years ago. Andy raised his left eyebrow at the request. He had been Facebook friends with Craig since his time at the company, and wasn’t sure why Craig would need to request a friendship with him again.

With a shrug, Andy accepted the request. He continued to peruse the latest posts from friends until it was time to head to work.

Later that evening, Andy took a break from his job at Pole Vault, a sports bar in Scottsdale, Arizona. He noted a new Facebook alert message from Craig earlier during his shift and didn’t have time to peruse until now. When he accessed it, he read about a dire situation involving Craig’s trip to Nigeria.

“Andy, I need help!” read the message. “I have been arrested for bad driving in Nigeria during business trip and I need $500 fast to pay fine or I go to jail. I have no money and my wallet is stolen. Please help!”

Andy replied to Craig’s message asking more about the situation. At the end of their electronic message conversation, Andy agreed to wire money to Craig to help him out of his situation.

The next day, Andy read a message on his Facebook wall from someone who received a similar friend message from Craig. Andy’s heart sank when he discovered the person who requested the renewed friendship was not Craig, but a scammer looking to prey on Craig’s friend list to steal money.

***

The Craig clone in this scenario copied the real Craig’s photos from his page and added them to his own. After the Craig clone had duplicated the real Craig’s profile and header photos, he targeted Craig’s Facebook friends and requested friendships with them. Those who accepted the friend requests became targets for the Craig clone’s scam.

If you receive a friend request from someone with whom you’re already friends, don’t accept it. Instead, go to your friends list and see if that person is still a friend. If so, send a message to that person telling him or her about the new friend request. If not, send a message to the person who sent the friend request and ask that person something only he or she would know. If the person doesn’t respond to your satisfaction, delete the request.

To make cloning your account more difficult, don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Also, make sure your friends list and posts aren’t visible to non-friends. Type “hide Facebook friends list from public” and “hide Facebook timeline from public” into your favorite search engine to learn more about hiding your personal information from strangers.

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