A scary-sounding message about Facebook is spreading quickly across the world – and is completely false.
The message warns people of one of the most creepy things that can happen on a social network: "cloned" accounts, where scammers steal people's pictures and use them to create a new version of their account. That account can then be used to add friends and carry out malicious behaviour towards friends.
The text warns people that has happened and tells them to "check their account".
“Hi… I actually got another friend request from you yesterday… which I ignored so you may want to check your account,” it reads. “Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears… then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too… I had to do the people individually. Good Luck!”
But while the problem of cloning is very real, the message is fake. And it is only spreading because it contains within it a message to send it on.
Most likely the person receiving the message was sent the exact same one, and never received such a friend request. And when they got it, they followed the instructions telling people to forward it on, which is how it ends up in people's inbox.
A range of similar messages have spread across Facebook in recent months, including similar posts about making sure that posts appear in your feed. It's not clear why such hoax messages begin, since there is nothing really to be gained by starting one, though they have been going on for decades in the form of chain letters.
The encouraging thing about the message is that – while it is more than a little creepy and annoying – it doesn't actually threaten people's safety. The only instruction is to "check your account" and forward on a message, which are not likely to endanger the people doing it.
Facebook account cloning is a very real problem: as with other social networks, people regularly steal pictures and then create such false accounts. An easy way to check is to stay alert for genuine messages from friends as well as searching your own name to look for other versions of your account, and then reporting any of those problem profiles to Facebook.
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