Today, my father was cloned. His clone wanted to be my friend, though he apparently wasn’t too interested in my mother – so at least he has morals. He also wanted to be friends with most of my family – I guess integration is important for clones. Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t best pleased about his new alter-ego.
Yes, today my father was the victim of a Facebook scammer who attempted to steal his identity and put it to nefarious uses. I’d heard about people who try to impersonate Facebook users before, but like most of the best warning stories, I never really gave it much thought until it hit much closer to home.
It all started around midday today, when I (and a few other people I know) got friend requests from my father on Facebook. Now that doesn’t sound too odd when you say it in isolation, but my father has been on Facebook for years now – and he’s not the type for petulantly deleting his account or accidentally deleting his friends and having to re-add them.
So it was at this stage that the alarm bells started to ring. First thing I did was ring my mum to check whether Dad had suffered some sort of mental breakdown or accidentally deleted his account – no, turns out she got the friend request too. So I called dad himself, to enquire about what he was playing out – turns out he had no idea either. Back at my desk (this all happened while I was wandering Chiswick highroad on my lunch break) I checked Facebook and realised that the friend request was from an imposter.
Realising what was up, I alerted my friends and family to be on the lookout for friend requests from my new Dad, before realising with some amazement that this scammer had already managed to con at least a dozen of my read dad’s friends into adding him – at least 40-odd by the end of the day, by my estimates.
Amusingly, new Dad hadn’t anticipated quite how amusing my family can be. When he started to send them messages pushing whatever scam it is he was pushing (seeminly some sort of lottery scheme, by the sound of it) quite a few of them purposefully engaged him (or her) in amusing conversations, aiming to root-out what was going on. On amusing example (by my cousin Lucy – my dad’s niece) can be seen to the right, if you’re interested.
Luckily, having realised this fairly quickly, we were able to alert most of the friends he had added and get them to de-friend and block new Dad.
So what can you do if you get an unusual friend request – or find that you’ve become victim to a scam account yourself? Here’s my advice:
- First up, always check the profile of the person adding you before accepting the request. If you had clicked on my new Dad’s profile today, you’d have noticed that he only joined Facebook 2 hours ago. He also had no content posted, a single (copied) profile photo in his photos and a cover photo (also copied) – nothing else.
- Don’t forget – if somebody has requested you as a friend, their profile is almost completely visible to you (for exactly this reason) – so don’t assume that any of their content has been hidden from you. You should easily be able to tell if it’s a real account or not.
- If you HAVE accepted their request by mistake, unfriend them quickly and click the ‘block’ button – Facebook also give you the option to report the scammer, and alert the victim as well. Make sure you do – the more reports Facebook get, the quicker the scammer will be removed.
- If you’re the victim, the block/report buttons (top right of any profile, under the little cog icon) is your best route – alert Facebook quickly, and inform any friends that have fallen for the scam.
At the time of writing this post, the scammer is still at large – though I’m confident that Facebook will act swiftly once my real dad has gone through the full reporting process. But it’s certainly a lesson for me – and should be for you – that Facebook profile-fakers are a very real and serious issue. So be careful out there, people.