Has this ever happened to you? You get a Facebook Messenger message from your own mother that seems a little unusual and out of character. The message might say something like:
“How have you been? I am checking in on you.”
Sounds normal enough, but this is my mother. She uses Facebook all the time, but Facebook Messenger is not her preferred form of communication. She has never contacted me on Facebook Messenger in the past. I immediately knew that this must be a scam, and I decided to further investigate.
Fake Friend on Facebook
The first thing I did was to sign-in to Facebook and use the search function to look up my mother’s name. Sure enough, I found six different Facebook accounts using my mother’s name and profile picture. I shared this information with my mother, and she confirmed that all these accounts were not hers. She did in fact have two Facebook accounts that were hers, and she was wishing that she knew how to consolidate those. The other four accounts were imposters.
Someone had cloned my mother on Facebook four times. I looked closer at the cloned accounts, and there were a few things that confirmed that these were fake accounts. On some fake accounts, the birthdays were wrong. On other fake accounts, the profile picture was slightly altered or a cutesy graphic was added to the edges of the Facebook profile picture. The fake accounts had already made many friends with my mother’s Facebook friends, but there were not quite as many Facebook friends on the fake accounts as she had on her real account.
Reporting Fake Facebook Accounts
Once these fake, cloned accounts were known, I reported the suspicious profiles to Facebook. This is an easy step. You simply view the suspicious profile and select the 3 dots to the righthand side of the screen. When you click on the dots, you get the option to “Find support or report profile”.
You select the "Find support or report profile" option to report the profile, and at the top of the list of choices is “Pretending to Be Someone”. Select this option, and you say that someone is pretending to be your friend. Follow along with a couple of more questions, and Facebook should send you an email indicating that they are investigating the matter and will follow up with your friend who is being cloned.
With any luck, the cloned Facebook accounts will be shut down within a few hours or days. In my mother’s case, one of the fake accounts was removed from Facebook right away. It took a few days and a few more reports to get down the other cloned accounts, but I am happy to report that they are now gone.
Common Facebook Messenger Scams
Cloning Facebook accounts is a common first step in a multi-part scam. When someone pretends to be your friend on Facebook, then you are more likely to engage in a conversation with that person. So, first step for the scammer is to impersonate your friend, and the next step is to get your money.
This fake “friend” will eventually try steal your money or personal information in some way. For example, the fake "friend" may tell you that they saw your name on a list of winners for a prize from Mega Bucks or Publisher's Clearing House (PCH). Another potential scam would to tell you that your fake "friend" is in desperate need of some quick cash due to a travel emergency or some other misfortune that plays upon your emotions.
The scammers want to steal your money by pretending to be your Facebook Friend. Don’t be fooled. If you can’t confirm their identity through another means such as calling a phone number that you already know, then it is likely that you are dealing with an imposter. Use extreme caution if someone on Facebook Messenger ever asks you for money or refers to you some outside agent for more information.
If you suspect that the Facebook account of someone you know has been cloned, then report it to that person offline and report the suspicious profile to Facebook. You might help save other people from being scammed by quickly reporting a cloned profile before it can be used to do any harm.
Thank you for visiting the Guide Change blog. To learn more about Facebook Messenger scams, read other blogs: Beware of Scams from Friends on Facebook Messenger and Why do Facebook Messenger Scammers Know so Much.
If you would like to take a quiz to learn more about common scams, Guide Change offers a free quiz here: Financial Safety Quiz.