What is Facebook account ‘cloning’?

A new viral post on Facebook is warning users about the purported risks of account “cloning.” Cloning also known as Impersonating accounts is already against Facebook’s rules, and is easy to detect both by Facebook and other users.

Cloning is when a user copies another user’s profile, then uses the information on the profile such as the profile photo and other personal details to create a new Facebook account.
This is common especially if the victim has all or some of his or her profile material set to “public”.

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Facebook cloning is NOT hacking as claimed in some circulating security warnings. The scammers have simply copied publicly available information and images and used them to create a new profile.

How To Protect Your Facebook Account From Cloning

You can reduce the cloning risk by ensuring that you use privacy settings that hide as much of your information as possible from strangers. Unfortunately, many Facebook users still have much of their information set to “Public”. These type of accounts are easy targets for cloning scammers.

Here’s what to do to change that.

Hide Your Friends List
If the clone scammers cannot see who you are friends with, they will not be able to send out fake friend requests to your friends. To hide your friends list, open your profile and click on the “Friends” tab. Then, click the pencil icon on the right side and click “Edit Privacy”:

In the “Who can see your friends list?” section, select “Only me” in the drop down list.

Run A “Privacy Checkup”
If you click the “Lock” icon at the top right of your Facebook profile, you can perform a quick privacy checkup related to your posts, apps, and, profile. Wherever possible, ensure that they are all set to “Friends” or “Only Me” rather than “Public”


Related Article: 10 ways you can improve the privacy of your Facebook account


View your profile as “Public”
You should also see what your Facebook actually looks like to somebody who is NOT your friend. To do this, click the “Lock” icon then click “Who can see my stuff”. Now, click the “View As” link under “What do other people see on my timeline?”:

Check Who Can See Your Photos
Clone scammers copy images from the targeted profile and add them to the fake profile. Facebook won’t allow you to hide your current Profile and Cover Photos. However, you can make sure that as many of your other photos as possible are set to “Friends” or “Only Me”. Click the “Photos” tab and open “Albums”. Some types of album will have an audience selector that allows you to set all of the images in the album to “Friends” or “Only Me” in one click:

For other albums, such as “Profile Pictures” and “Timeline Photos” you may need to select the audience for each image individually. Open the image, click the “Edit” button and choose the option you want via the audience selector.

Check Who Can See Other Profile Information
Seemingly innocent information such as what books, music, and movies you’ve liked can help a scammer build a more believable cloned profile.
So, click the “More” tab and, wherever possible, ensure that the material in each section is not set to public. You can also hide sections completely by clicking the More tab and selecting “Manage Sections”:

Dig into Your Privacy Settings
You can also check and change privacy related settings via the “Privacy Settings and Tools” section. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of the lock icon and click “Settings”. Then click “Privacy” in the left menu. Make sure that everything is set as you would like.

What To Do If Your Account Has Already Been Cloned

If you discover that your Facebook account has been cloned, report the fake account to Facebook. And, let all of your friends know about the cloning attempt as quickly as possible. Warn them not to accept any friend requests that look like they came from you.

What to do if You Receive a Friend Request That You Suspect is from A Clone Scammer

If you receive a friend request you suspect, check your own friends list to see if you are still freinds with the person. If so, the friend request is likely to be from a cloned account. Alert your friend as soon as possible so that he or she can take steps to deal with the issue. In the early stages, your friend may not be aware that his or her account has been cloned.

Copying and pasting the same message yields almost no result because Facebook’s algorithm penalizes chain-mail messages in its news feed meaning few people will ever even see it.

Where as I discourage the idea of copying and pasting a message that will appear like a spam, it’s important to educate your friends. If every Facebook user was aware of how cloning scams work and how to protect themselves, impact of cloning would be greatly diminished. You can help by ensuring that your friends know about cloning. If necessary, take the time to explain the issue and help them with their Facebook settings. Sharing this post might be a great first step.