In the past, most Facebook fraudsters limited their operations to cloning the accounts of popular Nigerians to defraud unsuspecting members of the public. For instance, a Facebook search of Goodluck Jonathan would produce tens of profiles bearing the President’s photograph and his bio-data.
Just last Friday, the State Security Service paraded an ex- student of Ogwashi-Uku Polytechnic, Delta State, Mr. Philip Urieh, for allegedly cloning the Facebook account of Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan. According to the SSS, Urieh used the cloned account to defraud unsuspecting persons to the tune of over N5 million.
However, such a fraud, often perpetrated in the name of top government functionaries, politicians, Nollywood actors and actresses and other celebrities, is now applying to ordinary Nigerians.
Facebook profile cloning is a type of identity theft in which fraudsters make a second profile that looks exactly like your current one. It’s a scam that doesn’t basically require any hacking or guessing of passwords.
The scammer ‘clones’ a Facebook user’s profile, by simply copying and pasting the victim’s profile and cover pictures, contact information, education, work history and every other available information onto the duplicate profile.
These fraudsters also join and like all the Fan pages and groups the victim belongs to, with a view to making it very difficult to spot the duplicated profile as fake. As soon as the duplicate account gets the exact and same look as the victim’s real profile, these fraudsters then go through the victim’s friend’s list and send friend requests to the victim’s actual Facebook friends.
When unsuspecting friends get fooled into accepting friend requests from the cloned profile, they communicate with the fraudster, using the stolen identity. With this, they play the classic “Facebook friend in crisis’’ scam that involves pretending to urgently need money because they are in dire need.
Meanwhile, the smarter scammers, after perfecting the cloning, make attempts to block the real profile with the cloned one. The fraudsters do this by viewing the real profile with the fake account and simply clicking on “Report/block.’’ Once this is done, the victim will never be able to directly know about the existence of the fake profile.
Many prolific users of Facebook in the country say they are witnessing a surge in the cases of what many of them call “Facebook Profile cloning.’’
Our correspondent observes that many Facebook users now urge their friends and associates on the social network not to accept requests from people who appear to be posing as them online.
A Facebook user, Davidson Adejuwon, says on his Facebook wall that he “wrestled’’ to get his account from a fraudster who cloned his profile and warned his friends on the social service never to accept a friend request in his name.
He says, “Warning! warning! warning! Dear friend, please, ignore any friend request in my name on Facebook. I just wrestled my account from the hand of these unscrupulous elements with a stronger password security.
“What they are now up to is to create another Facebook account in my name, using my picture and begin to ask for friend requests as if I’m the one. Apparently, their evil intention is to use my personality to dupe innocent people. Please, do not transact any business with them. Don’t send money and recharge cards. Don’t even believe them.’’
Another Facebook user, Onikepe Oluwadamilola Owolabi, who might have also suffered in the hands of these fraudsters, says, “Please, I am not re-sending friend requests. So, please do not re-add me.’’
Editing one’s Facebook privacy settings such that only friends can see one’s posts and access basic information will go a long way in limiting the likelihood of this incident and prevent one’s friends and loved ones from falling victim to the fraudsters’ scheming. Also, steps should be taken to the extent that the privacy settings of each photo album on one’s profile is set in a way that only friends can see them. Changing your profile and cover pictures frequently may also be quite helpful.
by Temitayo Famutimi