How many Facebook friends do you have? Have you checked the validity of each one? Are you sure they are who you think they are?

Do you ever wonder if that Facebook friend you are chatting with – sharing little secrets in Facebook’s private message box – is really the person you think she is? Maybe it is your old best friend from high school, and you haven’t seen her for years, but the profile picture is hers, and the other photos on her site look legit – you recognize many of the faces in her photographs. Pictures don’t lie, do they? Plus, she and you share many of the same friends. No scam here. Umm. . . maybe.

Perhaps one of your current Facebook friends has recently sent you a new friend’s request. You accept, because the page looks just like his other one – same name, banner and photos, just without the older posts. You figure he wants to clean up his Facebook account and decided to create a new one, and will eventually delete the original. But he wants YOU as one of his friends – he is keeping YOU when he zaps the old account and flushes some of his former friends. Don’t you feel special? Umm. . . maybe.

This is not a particularly new Facebook identity theft scam, but one many people don’t know about. I’ve had it happen to two friends so far (that I know about). One months ago – and another this morning, which is why I am writing this post.

Here is how it works.

The thieves create a new Facebook account, pretending to be someone else. They steal the other person’s info and photos with a simple cut and paste, and add it to the new page. They even take that person’s banner he or she created.

Then they BLOCK the person they are cloning. This help keeps the person in the dark.

The fake sends off friend requests to friends of the person they are cloning – and/or friends of those friends, hoping to snare someone who hasn’t yet friended that person, yet knows them.

Imagine the possibilities. Intimate chats with people who think you are someone else. Access to private information only shared with friends. Plus other devious stuff you or I can’t even imagine.

So what should we do to protect ourselves? For starters, if you get a friend request from someone who is already a friend, let them know IMMEDIATELY about the new account. If it is a clone, he probably can’t see it. It is  a good idea to contact him by phone or his private email account that you’ve previously verified.  Also, un-friend that fake immediately!  You may even want to block the fake.

And remember, it is not a good idea to share anything – either in a Facebook chat or your Facebook page – that you don’t care if the entire world can see. Because, even if you have your privacy settings to private, there is always a way for someone to share your most intimate Facebook ramblings and photos with the rest of the world.

Don’t forget — if one of your friends is a fake,  that fake can swipe your banner, photos and other info to use in creating a fake account, even if YOUR privacy settings are set at the highest level.

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