Facebook Profile Hacker Warning

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As posted on Facebook, July 25, 2013:

Facebook Profile Hackers
Netlore Archive: Rumor warns of a 'new' Facebook security threat, namely hackers stealing profile pictures to create fake accounts and impersonate other members.. Via Facebook

Description: Viral rumor
Circulating since: Dec. 2012
Status: Basically true (see details below)

Example #1:
As posted on Facebook, Jan. 25, 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 DO NOT accept a second friendship request from me. Copy this on your wall to keep others informed

Example #2:
As posted on Facebook, Jan. 24, 2013:

S'il vous plaît faites attention, certains pirates ont trouvé quelque chose de nouveau. Ils prennent votre photo de profil et le nom et créer un nouveau compte FaceBook. Puis ils demander à vos amis de les ajouter. Vos amis pensent que c'est vous afin qu'ils acceptent. A partir de ce moment-là, ils peuvent dire et écrire ce qu'ils veulent sous votre nom. S'il vous plaît ne pas accepter unedeuxieme demande d'amitié de moi.. Je n'ai qu'un seul compte et vous êtes déjà mon ami. Copier une demande d'amitié ceci sur votre mur pour empêcher les autres informés.

Example #3:
As posted on Facebook, Jan. 24, 2013:

Por favor atentamente desde: Algunos hackers han descubierto algo nuevo. Se toman tu foto y tu nombre y crear una nueva cuenta de FB. A continuación, pedir a tus amigos que añadir. Sus amigos piensan que es tuyo, para que aceptarlo. A partir de ese momento se puede decir y escribir lo que quiera con su nombre. Por favor, no aceptamos ninguna demanda segundos de la amistad para mí, sólo tengo una cuenta. Copia esto en tu muro para informar a los demás!

Example #4:
As posted on Facebook, Jan. 24, 2013:

Bitte seit vorsichtig: Einige Hacker haben etwas Neues gefunden. Sie nehmen euer Profilbild und euren Namen und erstellen ein neues FB-Konto. Dann fragen die eure Freunde, um sie hinzuzufügen. Eure Freunde denken, es ist eures, so dass ihr akzeptieren. Von diesem Moment an können die sagen und schreiben, was sie unter eurem Namen möchten. Bitte akzeptiert keine zweite Freundschaftnachfrage von mir, ich habe nur ein Konto. Kopiert dieses an eurer Pinnwand um andere zu informieren!!!

Analysis: While there's nothing particularly new about hackers using profile pictures and public information copied from real Facebook accounts to create phony ones (I've found warnings going back to 2008), the activity does exist and can pose a real security threat to users.

It's called "profile cloning," described as follows in a 2012 article on 24/7 Wall Street:

Profile cloning is the act of using unprotected images and information to create a Facebook account with the same name and details of an existing user. The cloner will then send friend requests to all of the victim’s contacts. These contacts will likely accept the cloner as a friend since the request appears to be from someone they’re familiar with. Once accepted, the crook has access to the target’s personal information, which they can use to clone other profiles or to commit fraud.

Impersonating Facebook members is illegal in some states and a violation of Facebook's Terms of Service. If you have reason to believe someone has created a fake account to impersonate you or another member, you can report it here.

Generally speaking, it's wise to be prudent and discriminating about accepting friend requests on Facebook. Don't be hasty. When you receive a request, examine that person's profile for signs they may not be who they say they are. If you're not sure, contact them directly to make sure they sent the request before accepting.

Helpful hints:
• How to Tell a Facebook Friend from a Facebook Hacker

Facebook help:
How do I report abuse to Facebook?
How do I report a fake account?
How do I report a fake account that's pretending to be me?
Facebook Terms of Service

More Facebook rumors:
Message Advises Posting Copyright Notice on Profile Page
Viral Warning About Facebook Privacy Settings
• Hackers Posting Porn Movies in Facebook Profiles?
Warning on Facebook Photo Tagging 'Virus'

Sources and further reading:

Can You Go to Jail for Impersonating Someone Online?
Time.com, 22 January 2013

Nine Major Ways Criminals Use Facebook
24/7 Wall Street, 16 May 2012

Facebook Clone Accounts Can Fool ANYONE into Accepting a Fake Friend
Daily Mail, 2 December 2011

Are People Impersonating You on Facebook?
CBS4 News, 26 April 2011

Last updated 08/04/13