If you’ve never heard of the Facebook cloning scam, please read on. This tricky trick is so simple yet so effective that even law enforcement officials are warning people to be careful.

What is the Facebook Cloning Scam?

It starts off as an innocent friend request from someone known to you. You accept, and you think everything is fine. That’s where it begins. The account that you received the friend request from is actually a fake one based on a genuine profile of one of your existing contacts.

The problem is, most of us either don’t realize that the person who purportedly sent the request is already on our friends list, or we think the person may have opened a new Facebook account for some reason or other. The real issue here is that we trust the source of the request because the profile is – supposedly – that of a known friend or acquaintance.

Basically, what happens is that the attacker (and this is the scary part) doesn’t even need to be a hacker. They simply copy the public profile of someone else, download a profile photo or two and create a new account impersonating that person. They then take a look at that person’s friends list and send friend requests to one or more people on that list.

If you’re one of those recipients, and you accept the new friend request without questioning it or checking with that person, you may be subject to a subsequent attack.

That attack may come in the form of an innocent request for cash for an emergency and so on. There’s also the possibility of them sending you a malicious link. It could come in several forms, but the theme is generally about scamming people for small amounts of money.

The police in Lynchburg, Va. have asked people to hide their friends list from public view, review their privacy settings for photos and posts, and check if there’s any personal information is publicly accessible. Most importantly, if you get a friend request from someone who’s already on your friends list, beware.

The biggest threat is that this scam is a very low-tech attack method that preys on the trust people place on platforms like Facebook. This could happen on any platform because users, in general, aren’t careful about what person information they post, and who is privy to that information.

The real weak link in any security system is generally the user, so watch your practices on social media, pay a little attention to what you share and keep yourself safe.

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