Scams & Deception

Rumor: Are Hackers Stealing Facebook Identities?

Rumor: Are Hackers Stealing Facebook Identities?

Today we look at a warning circulating online that tells of hackers stealing users photos and identities.

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The warning is true, but it is by no means a new problem. 

Let’s take a look at the warning being circulated in 2013:

Please be careful: some hackers have found something new. They take your profile picture and your name and create a new FB account. Then they ask your friends to add them. Your friends think it is you, so they accept. From that moment on they can say and post whatever they want under your name.
Please don’t accept a second friendship demand from me, I have only one account.
Copy this on your wall to keep others informed.

Not a new problem
The concept of downloading a person’s photos and using them to create a fake profile predates the rise of social media, but it became much more prevalent in the Myspace era from around 2004 to 2008, and has continued on Facebook and dating sites since then.

Heightened Interest – Catfish: The TV Show & Manti Te’o
It’s probably not a coincidence that the above warning began to circulate shortly after the MTV series Catfish: The TV Show began airing in November, 2012 and the Manti Te’o “Girlfriend hoax” of January 2013. The Catfish series investigates so-called “catfish” who are people that create fake online profiles and assume the identity of someone else. The show has exposed many situations where a fake profile was used to gain trust of a person for a variety of reasons such as insecurity, revenge, or boredom.

The story of football star Manti Te’o being duped by a fake online girlfriend exploded recently, and brought even more awareness to the problem. So, although the problem is not new or increasing, awareness of it is, thanks in part to the Catfish series and the Manti Te’o hoax.

The only way to prevent anyone from downloading all of your photos is by having no social media profile at all. The Catfish series has highlighted the fact that sometimes it is a trusted friend who ends up being the “hacker”  which makes this very difficult to avoid. See below for more tips.

Knowing how Facebook identities are stolen may help you avoid it happening to you. If your profile is public, stealing your photos requires no effort on the part of the hacker. If your profile is private, there are still ways hackers can get your pictures. And remember that when we say “hacker” it could be a friend of yours.

A popular way to steal an identity is to create a fake profile and befriend several of the target’s friends first. So, for example, if I were interested in stealing your profile, I would create a fake profile and send friend requests to many of your friends first. Then, after a few of your friends accepted my friend requests from this fake account, I’d send you a friend request. Because you and I have “mutual friends” it would make me seem like much less of a threat. There are of course other methods, such as apps that and phishing scams that try to trick you into giving up your log in information.

Things to consider 

  • Keep your profile private
  • If a profile seems too good to be true, it probably is. Miss Teen USA won’t be contacting you for a date.
  • Only accept friend requests from people you know, and from accounts that you are sure are legitimate.
  • Be aware of Facebook apps and phishing scams.
  • Use good judgement! If a super model messages you out of the blue, you might want to exercise a little caution.
  • Mutual friends doesn’t mean much. Your friends may not know these people either.
  • If they message you – is the grammar of their message considerably different than the grammar in their profile? Sometimes they’ll steal the bio, too, but can’t match the same grammar.
  • Be careful if a new online friend starts asking questions or wants to meet.
  • Look at their profile. Often these fake accounts don’t have much previous interaction, or have been recently created.
  • Reverse searches are your friend. You can reverse search images of people you aren’t sure of, and you can also reverse search some of your own images to make sure they aren’t being used by someone else.
Your experience?
Have you been duped by a fake profile, or have you created on yourself? Have you had your profile stolen? We want to hear from you below. All responses are anonymous.
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