We all know what cloning is. Scientists have been experimenting with physical cloning, and there are even experiments with "mind cloning" that some believe could be the key to immortality.
But, it goes without saying, the concept of cloning can be pretty scary. While science may still be decades away from accomplishing the impossible with physical cloning, scammers are using a form of digital cloning to trick people online.
This particular form of cloning is appearing primarily on Facebook, but can also show up on other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. For the purposes of this article, we'll refer to it as "Facebook cloning," but keep this in mind so you can watch for it on other sites across the internet.
What is Facebook cloning, exactly? It's the act of copying someone's Facebook profile and using it to conduct scams across the web. The scary thing is, anyone could be targeted and have their profile photos and details stolen. In most cases, without even knowing about it.
Note: Facebook cloning isn't the only Facebook scam you need to watch out for. Click here and read this article before you take another Facebook quiz.
By stealing your photos and details from your profile, such as where you work, where you went to school, when you were born and your relationship status, cybercrooks are often able to convince your real contacts to accept your "Friend request." Any that do accept have just given hackers the permission they need to snoop through their photos and clone their profiles too. And the cycle continues from there.
The cloning itself is only part of the scam, which could take months or even years to pull off. Hiding behind their fake profiles, the scammers study and mimic the communication styles of your true contacts, until eventually, they've learned enough to put on an even more convincing act.
Imagine receiving a private message from an old roommate from college. She's in trouble. She's trying to get home, but her purse was just stolen. She couldn't think of anyone else to reach out to but you.
For many, this request would stand out as odd, but under the right circumstances, there are plenty of people who fall for it. This old "friend," of course, isn't truly a friend at all. It's a wolf hiding in sheep's clothing.
Avoid this scam
The first way to avoid this scam, and the most obvious, is to confirm that all profiles are real before you accept anyone's friend request. Use the search feature on Facebook to pull up their page and see how many friends the person has, and when the account was created. Fake accounts will likely have just been created within a few weeks or months, and chances are, the scammers won't take the time to build up a massive Friends list.
If you see anything that looks suspicious, don't accept the friend request. If you have the contact information (either a phone number or an email address) of the real person, reach out to confirm outside of Facebook.
Next, you need to edit your Facebook profile to ensure that it's private. (Click here for 3 essential Facebook privacy checks you need to do right now.) You also need to remove any unnecessary information about your private life. Delete your phone number, home address, and these three additional details that put your privacy at risk.
Lastly, if you have a Facebook account that you no longer use, you need to delete it. Old, unused accounts leave you at risk of having your private information stolen by hackers, and even through massive data breaches. If you're not sure how to delete your old Facebook account, click here and we'll walk you through the steps.