If you get a Facebook friend request from someone you thought you were already friends with, it may be a hacker trying to steal information.
Here’s how this scam works:
A scammer recreates a person’s Facebook profile to impersonate them by stealing their profile photo and copying their “About” information.
Then, the scammer sends “friend requests” to all of the people on the Facebook friends list of the user they are impersonating. They will likely even mention that he or she has had to open a new account for some reason so that you will accept the request.
That’s when things get even worse. Then, they will start a conversation in an attempt to borrow money or arrange a meet-up.
This is one user’s experience with this scam taken from the Better Business Bureu Page:
“I received a request from “Linda” (name changed), a relative I was already friends with on Facebook. Odd, I thought. Perhaps her account was shut down, and she had to start a new profile?
I clicked on Linda’s photo, which showed her with her kids. We had one mutual friend, and her latest Facebook activity read “34 new friends.” It seemed like she did have to start a new account after all. I accepted.
Minutes later, I received a message. “Hello,” it said. “How are you doing?” Interesting. I hadn’t heard personally from Linda in quite some time. Perhaps she wanted to explain the new account. I replied that I was fine, and looking forward to an upcoming event. Right away, she responded: “okay.”
Now the red flags were popping up. This didn’t seem normal. Another response came: “I am so happy and excited.” This didn’t seem like Linda at all. Now, I was even more curious. I waited, and the ball dropped. Here’s the message my “relative” sent:
“I am so happy I got 200,000$ in cash from the National world help company…Did you not get it they have been helping the poor people and Retired,Unemployed, Worker’s, Disable, and people’s like us who are in need of money to make there possible living.”
A scammer, indeed! The signs were all there: misspelled words, poor grammar use, many recently added friends. If I’d paid attention to my first initial red flag—the fact that I was friends with this account already– I would have thought to check Linda’s profile. I did so then, and her page was still alive and well. In fact, the latest post on her wall was from a concerned friend, informing her that he thought she’d been hacked.
I reported and blocked the fake account, but it was clear that this wasn’t a case of a “hacked” Facebook profile. The scammer had copied Linda’s information, stolen her profile photo, and proceeded to send add requests to all of her friends, 34 of whom accepted at the time I checked.
Facebook is an easy way for scammers to reach networks of people, and in this case, under the guise of someone they trust. If you happen to add a scammer, they have access to information that could lead to identity theft or other fraudulent activity. In this case, it seems like the “fake friend” was after money (aren’t they all, really?) through a loan scam.”
Experts warn that someone could learn a lot about you by gaining access to all that’s on your profile, like status updates, location, date of birth and photos.
They can also send messages to your friends, posing as you, in an effort to glean learn more about you, ask to borrow money or try to meet up with your friends.
If you get a friend request from an existing “friend,” verify that the request is genuine before accepting it. And of course, be very wary of friend requests from people you don’t know.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to tighten your security settings so that only your Facebook friends can view your profile, photos and other info.
Another suggestion is to go into the “Friends” section of your Activity Log. At the top, it says, “Who can see your friend list?” In the dropdown, select “Friends,” rather than “Public.”
Some additional ways to stay safe on Facebook:
Always double check friend requests: Don’t just automatically click “accept” for new requests. Take a few moments to look over the profile and verify that account is a real person, not a scam. Scan your list of current Friends to see if any show up twice (the newer account is going to be the scam one).
Don’t blindly trust friends’ recommendations: Just because a link, video, or other information is shared by a friend doesn’t mean that it’s safe to click. It could be a fake account, a hacker, or mean that your friend hasn’t done his or her research.
Watch for poor grammar: Scam Facebook posts are often riddled with typos and poor English.
Alert your friends: If your Facebook friend suddenly starts posting links to work-at-home schemes or scandalous celebrity videos, tell him or her directly about the suspicious activity. Otherwise, they may never know that their account has been impersonated.
Report fake accounts to Facebook: Facebook does not allow accounts that are pretending to be someone else. Here’s how to report a fake profile.
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