Today I got a Facebook friend request from Joanne Sterner — except it wasn’t really Joanne Sterner.
Joanne is a great Democrat, so I almost clicked “Confirm” before stopping to think that we were probably already Facebook friends. One clue was that fake “Joanne” and I only had 2 mutual friends. When I looked up the real Joanne, I saw that we had dozens of Facebook friends in common. Another clue that a profile might be a fake is that the posts associated with the profile only go back a few weeks, and you know the person has been on Facebook for years. Facebook search will let you look up the real person’s profile so you can see the contrast.
This has happened to so many friends lately, inside and outside of politics, that I thought it was worth sharing some tips. If it happens to you, in most cases it doesn’t mean you’ve been “hacked” in the sense that someone has your password and can access all your private information. Rather, your profile has been “clone” by someone who took your profile picture and other publicly available information and used it to create a fake profile in your name.
If they can get into your network of friends, they can start sending out spam and scam messages like: “This is so embarrassing, but I really need your help. I’ve been traveling in Paris and lost my wallet. I would be so grateful if you could just wire me some money at …”
Your best defense is a network of good friends who will be suspicious enough to alert you to the problem before it gets to that point.
To be clear: I would recommend that you change your password, just in case. But most likely the more important step to take is to report the incident to Facebook:
Here are some relevant links:
Facebook help article https://www.facebook.com/help/167722253287296
This is the page where you actually report an impostor.
Here is another article that contains some useful tips on identifying fake accounts.
Facebook is a great resource for promoting the Democratic cause, but unfortunately it can be like campaigning in a bad neighborhood sometimes. You need to be prepared for the eventuality that things will go wrong.