Bogus Facebook profiles are nearly as old as the social media site itself with the company reporting that nearly ten percent of their profiles were phony in 2012. Brands and celebrity pages are no stranger to copies, but scam artists impersonate ordinary people as well. BBB Serving Central East Texas is warning Facebook users to check their privacy settings and to be on the watch for Facebook imposters who aim to take advantage of friends and family.
How the Scam Works:
You accept a friend request before verifying them, or your privacy settings are not set to “friends only”, and everyone can see your page. The scammer uses the access to your account to scrape images and other information from your profile. They create a new account under your same name and fill it with your photos, interests and status updates. After creating a duplicate account, the scammer sends friend requests to your existing Facebook friends. People recognize your name and hit “accept,” not realizing that the account is a bogus, and the process repeats itself, with the scam artist stealing information as they go.
“Some scams are obvious when they are coming from an unknown email address”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Receiving messages from someone whom you believe is a friend, however, are much harder to detect until it’s too late.”
BBB advises consumers to fight fake Facebook accounts by taking the following steps:
- Check your privacy settings. A recent survey indicated that 13 million users have not updated their privacy settings since 2012. Access to this information allows unscrupulous people to use your personal information for their benefit depending on what you post – where you like to eat, what your habits are, your likes/dislikes, etc. Make sure privacy settings are set to “friends” only.
- Exercise good judgment when sharing personal details. It’s not a good idea to post overly personal information such as cell phone numbers, addresses, work schedules, you whereabouts, etc. unless you feel comfortable being contacted by strangers. Many have been stalked by uninvited viewers of their pages when they posted overly personal information.
- Exercise good judgment when accepting friends. Don’t just automatically click “accept” for new requests. Take a few moments to look over the profile and verify that account is a real person, not a scam. Scan your list of current friends to see if any show up twice (the newer account is going to be the fake one).
- Alert your friends: If your Facebook friend suddenly starts posting links to work-at-home schemes or scandalous celebrity videos, tell them immediately about the suspicious activity. Otherwise, they may never know that their account has been hacked/impersonated.
- Rotate passwords every few months, and do not use the same few passwords for multiple accounts. Keep the passwords in a safe place in your home, not on your laptop or phone. Use two-step verification whenever possible.
- Report fake profiles! Social sites like Facebook allow you to report fake accounts or accounts that violate the terms of the site.
For more tips on internet safety, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.