Beware a sinister new twist on an old Facebook scam. Con artists used to troll for personal information by creating a phony Facebook profile of a real person, then sending “friend requests” to that person’s Facebook friends to get access to their pages and personal information. In the latest twist, if you accept such a request from a counterfeit page, a scammer will continue to pose as your friend and message you with probing questions (“Which bank do you use? I’m thinking of switching”) or financial opportunities (“This is crazy, but I just paid a $1,000 upfront and got back $20,000. You’ve got to try it!”). What to do: Never accept a Facebook friend request from someone you already have friended. And use the “MAP” principle: Be suspicious whenever a friend sends you unusual Facebook messages about money…your account information…or your personal information.
More ways to protect yourself from this new Facebook scam…
- Tighten your security settings so that only your Facebook friends can see your profile, photographs and personal information. First, click the upside-down triangle in the upper-right portion of your screen to access your activity log, and go into the “Friends” section. At the top, click “Who can see your friend list?” In the drop-down, select “Friends” (not “Public”). That way, con artists can’t get a list of your friends from your page, although they still may obtain your name if they’ve hacked one of your friends’ accounts.
- Contact the friend who made the suspicious friend request in case it’s a real friend request. Some people do legitimately create more than one Facebook account—for instance, a personal account and a business account. If it turns out that the friend request was not legitimate, your friend can warn his friends and contacts and determine whether his account was hacked.
- Report the impersonator. If you already have responded to a fake friend request, go to your home page and click “Find Friends” at the top to bring up a list of all your friends. You will see buttons alongside their photos that allow you to remove any you want to remove. Then go to the profile page of the impersonated account on Facebook. Click the three dots in the lower-right portion of your cover photo, and then select “Report.” Then follow the on-screen instructions to file a complaint.