What the Tech? How Hackers Can Steal Your Facebook Identity
If you’re on Facebook it’s almost a guarantee that you’ve either experienced social media identity theft or know someone who has.
What is social media identity theft?
It’s the common practice of a hacker, or ‘bad actor’ taking someone’s photo and name and using them to create other accounts.
How does it happen? Here’s a brief anatomy of social media hijacking that one of my friends experienced just this week.
I got an Instagram follower recently from one of my Facebook friends, Mary Moore. A woman I’ve known all my life. The profile picture was of her so I accepted.
The Instagram profile picture was the same one I’m familiar with when I see her posts on Facebook. Almost immediately she
sends a message, “Hello, how are you doing?” That generic greeting raised a red flag because I knew it is not how Mary would have started a conversation.
I responded though, asking about her family. Instead of a familial reply, the person on the other side of the account was that she was busy searching for how to invest her grant money. I knew immediately, this was not my friend. This was a bad actor.
I got in touch with the real Mary quickly over Facebook Messenger.
I also wanted to lead the fake Mary along to see what this person is up to. After my comment, she bragged about a “new program” she enrolled in and how she got $100,000 delivered to her, and she didn’t have to pay it back. She gave me a phone number to call or text to find out if I qualified for scam, er grant.
I imagine the Insta follow and comments were shared with all of her other Facebook friends as well.
So, how did someone steal my friend’s social media identity to dupe her friends? It’s very simple.
Facebook requires accounts to include a photo that is public, meaning someone can find your account and photo, even if they’re not on Facebook. The scammer must have searched Google for the common name then had gone to my friend’s Facebook page, and simply right clicked on her public photo and used it to set up a fake Instagram account.
Then, using her Facebook friends list (which was also made public) the bad guy started sending out Insta followings to anyone they could find on Instagram.
Several of our mutual friends were already following the fake account, thinking it was Mary. It probably took the scammer only a few minutes to steal her online identity.
What can you do to prevent it from happening with your account or profile picture? Very little.
Anyone can do it, and you’ll never know, unless one of your friends who receives a friend or follow request let’s you know about it. Mary and I both reported the fake account using her photo and name and Instagram deleted the fake account.
If you’ve ever doubted whether Facebook and Instagram respond to reports of fake accounts, I assure you they don’t.
It’s also a good practice to search for your name using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google every now and then to make sure your name is not being used on other accounts.
It’s an annoying thing about social media channels. And if you’re going to be online, you’ll need to do the occasional upkeep to protect yourself and the people who follow you.