Scammers are busy spoofing Facebook user profiles and sending out friend requests again.
Have you ever received a friend request from someone you had a hunch was already a Facebook friend? When you get one of those hunches, you better check your friends list. Of course, it’s another big Facebook time waster, but you really should check your list. If you just click “accept” without checking, you might be accepting a Facebook friendship with a scammer who just copied the public profile of your friend. Their interest in you could involve a variety of criminal schemes or criminal intelligence gathering.
In one of a series of incompetent setups by the social media company, Facebook has made it easy for scammers to copy public profile pictures and other photos from albums to create a new fake account with your friend’s real name. Amazing as it sounds, apparently Facebook doesn’t have algorithms that can recognize the same profile photo on two or more different Facebook accounts.
Fortunately, spoofers are usually easy to detect because they have very few posts, or because they may only have a few friends. Their timeline may also be mostly memes. But if you’re busy, or you’re multi-tasking, it might be easy to get duped. If the spoofers are seriously targeting you, those memes in their timeline might be specifically designed to dupe you into seeing a connection between the two of you.
Beware of spoofers that might present a story that attempts to tug at your heartstrings, such as a request for help for a sick relative, or a charity request for a “good cause.”
Spoofers at the very least cause embarrassment for the person who is spoofed because the victim has to explain to their friends that there might be someone going around pretending to be them, and trying to be a Facebook friend “again.” In a worst case scenario, spoofers may resort to blackmail and threats to a variety of victims — asking for money or threatening to show photos to your boss. The actual victims could be the initial person spoofed or the spoofed person’s friends.
Spoofers can create fake photos with Photoshop showing victims in apparent compromising positions, such as appearing to be in an intimate situation with a person outside of their relationship, abusing alcohol or drugs; or spoofers can place victims in a politically incorrect meme that could even lead to firing from a job — or at least a lot of explaining to do. It doesn’t take much to use a photo-editing program to place a photo of a victim in a meme to make it look like the victim is expressing themselves in a manner that could be against company policy (think hate crime, racism, shaming, sexual harassment, sexism, fetishes, criminal activity). Teachers should be especially concerned.
In one of the groups that Cardinal News manages, a member of the group publicly accused another member of abusing drugs with a colorful meme-like banner. Out of the blue, the banner called out the person by name and accused the victim of telling lies and being a ‘druggie.’
One of the first steps for your security is to prohibit outsiders from seeing your friends list. Go to settings, then go to “privacy” and look for the “who can see your friends list” section. Click on “only me” so no spoofer can see the friends in your friends list.
You also might want to protect all of your photo albums so they aren’t visible to strangers and aren’t subject to photo-editing and re-posting on a fake Facebook account of YOU.
Always, before accepting any friend request, check out their profile. Again, such a waste of time; but check it out carefully.
Don’t accept friends that you don’t know. Also beware of fake business owners who appear to be requesting a Facebook friendship to develop a promising business relationship or a great deal on services.
If you’re not using Facebook, except for an occasional viewing or on an as needed-only basis with an organization, you might be advised to deactivate your profile except when you need to look at something on Facebook. It is probably risky to have an account that is not receiving notifications, and that you don’t check for weeks or months. Someone could spoof your profile and do a lot of damage if you’re not checking Facebook for weeks or months. Deactivating isn’t the same as deleting your account. Facebook even recommends deactivating your account if you “need to take a break from Facebook.”
One last mention about fakers and spoofers. Sexual predators often use fake identity methods to carry out schemes. Catfishing (use of a fake identity to target a victim on social media) is often employed for romance scams on dating websites, but can also be used by sexual predators or romance scammers on Facebook.
A spoofer could also set up a fake profile that could make a reputable person appear to be acting like a sexual predator, or acting just plain creepy, or appear to be catfishing.
The possible combinations of deceit are endless on Facebook in an environment of global extended friends networks.
Always remember this about the worst of the worst — sexual predators. They look for victims and their vulnerabilities. Sexual predators can appear to be a safe refuge that appreciates and understands the victim — and gains their confidence. The fake understanding projected by the sexual predator comes from studying vulnerabilities detected by perusing comments about friends or family that are made by potential victims. The fake relationship that develops online can lead to physical coercion and human trafficking.
The Facebook opportunities for sexual predators and human trafficking should be everyone’s biggest concern.
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