Watch out for the Facebook & Instagram profile cloning scam!
Facebook profile cloning has been going on for years, with many people falling victim to scammers cloning accounts of their family members, then sending messages asking for money to be transferred to them urgently. Even my 82 year old mother-in-law was a victim of account cloning!
Facebook page cloning is still common too – fake pages claiming to be popular brands like CenterParcs and DisneyWorld offer unbelievable prizes in Like & Share comps, then start bombarding their followers with dodgy links to collect their personal information (see my post How to identify a scam facebook promotion).
More recently though, there’s an annoying trend for scammers to set up Facebook or Instagram profiles to clone a brand page. They use these profiles to comment on competition entries, message entrants, or even to send friend requests to entrants.
The comments will be posted onto the entrant’s public share of a competition (so not actually on the brand page itself). The comment congratulates the entrant on their win, and tells them to visit their profile or send a message to claim their prize. After a while the scammer might change their identity again, to clone a different page.
Now, most experienced compers would spot this and know it’s a scam right away – but some new compers might fall for it and register their details. Toby Toymaster, Bigfoot Sausages, Kwik Fit and Wren Kitchens are recent targets of the scammers.
Here’s the kind of comment you might spot on your competition share – it looks pretty suspicious!
And if you do click to visit their profile, here’s the type of post you’ll see there, with a link for you to share personal details – and maybe pay a small administrative fee to receive your prize!
The Pavers link in the post above goes to a website where you are encouraged to register your details for an entertainment subscription site in order to receive your prize boots!
Instagram and Facebook profiles masquerading as brands may also send messages and friend requests – congratulating you on your win and sharing a link to claim your prize. It’s likely the scammers may ask for a small payment to receive your prize – do not give them any details! Some compers have given their card details and had money taken from their accounts before realising they’d been the victims of a scam.
Like other email, text and social media scams, look out for bad spelling and grammar in the messages, plus mistakes like extra letters in the brand names – Bigfoots Sausages instead of Bigfoot, for example. The scammers tend to use a lot of emojis too!
How to report a cloned Facebook profile
To report a cloned profile, tap the three dots on the right of their cover photo – or the cog icon (settings) if you’re using the Facebook app. Choose Find support or Report Profile. Annoyingly, if you choose Pretending to be a real Person, there’s no option to choose a brand page – so your best bet is to choose Fake, Spam or Bot Account and report it as using a Fake Name. You will have the option to Report Profile too.
You might get a message back saying Facebook have reviewed it, and it isn’t a breach of Facebook Community Standards, but eventually the profile should be taken down especially if there are multiple reports.
How to report a cloned Instagram profile
To report a cloned Instagram profile, tap the three dots on the right of their profile page, then Report from the menu and select It’s spam. Unfortunately there’s no option to add further information.
How scammers clone your Facebook profile
As most compers have their Facebook profiles set to public, and are actively commenting on public brand pages, they’re at risk of having their own Facebook profile cloned.
To clone a personal Facebook profile, scammers simply go to a user’s profile, copy their name and photo and set up a brand new account using their identity. They then go through the user’s public friend list, adding each one as a friend. The friends usually accept, presuming there’s been a Facebook glitch and they were unfriended. Once they’ve been added as a friend, the scammer then sends a message – usually asking for money.
How to make it difficult for someone to clone your profile
It’s easy for someone to copy your profile name and photo, but without any friends to contact they won’t be able to do much scamming! Hiding your friends list from your profile will help deter scammers – simply change the privacy settings of your Friends list from public to private. To do this, open your Facebook profile and click the Friends tab. Click the pencil icon on the right and select Edit Privacy. In the Who can see your friends list? section, select Only me in the drop down list.
It’s disappointing that scammers are able to easily set up so many fake profiles without Facebook flagging it up as suspicious and activating security checks, but I’m hoping that more reports will show Facebook that fake profiles is a problem they need to work harder at preventing. Unfortunately there are a lot of gullible Facebook users who could easily be tricked into sharing personal details, or making payments.
How to prevent fake profiles from commenting on your public Facebook competition shares
If the fake Facebook profiles are starting to bug you, why not post those ‘Like & Share’ entries publicly to a group instead of to your own profile? The promoter will see all the public shares together on the same list under their competition post.
In a public group, the fake profile would not be able to comment. Lots of compers have created these small sharing groups (mine is Great Facebook Giveaways). You need just 2 members to form a Facebook group, so find a friend willing to be your second member.
If you found this post helpful, you might also want to read How to identify a scam Facebook promotion.
Have you experienced scams on Facebook or Instagram? Let me know in the comments.