Facebook cloning making the rounds in South Africa

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Received a friend request from someone you’ve already added on Facebook? Don’t accept. There’s a plague of Facebook profile cloning going around, and your information could be put at risk.

That’s the warning circulating between South Africa’s millions of Facebook users, after reports that the number of incidents of impersonation on the service are on the rise. It’s a low-tech version of identity theft that has been a problem worldwide for quite some time, but anyone with a ‘friend’ or two in the African country is likely to have witnessed a sharp spike in the number of users urging connections not to accept requests from people who appear to be posing as them online.

It’s a scam that doesn’t require any hacking or password guessing: the scammer simply ‘clones’ a Facebook user’s profile, using their own images and any publicly available information like their name, location, school, employer and basic history to create a duplicate profile. They then go through the victim’s friend list and send requests to their actual Facebook friends. Once they’re accepted, they can find out more about them to successfully clone their profiles too, or message them asking for help or money.

It’s the latter case that is potentially a problem, as your well-meaning friends may be willing to hand over some cash if the scammer can convince them that you’re in trouble. That’s what happened to user Dinesh Ramrathan, who told Times Live that she found out her profile had been duplicated after a “Facebook friend called me to find out why I had sent her a message asking for money online.” If you’re the type to freely share your Facebook posts with friends of friends, then you may risk exposing your posts to scammers who one of your friends has accepted on Facebook, even if you haven’t added them as a friend yourself.

It all comes back to privacy settings and being cautious. The more information users provide publicly or to distant acquaintances, the easier it will be for their profiles to be replicated to a believable extent. Those who have been affected, or who have friends who have had their profiles clones, are able to report the imposter’s account to Facebook.



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