Accept no Imitations

When I began getting messages from friends telling me that my Facebook account had been hacked, I immediately went on Facebook and started looking around. I quickly discovered that someone had set up a Facebook account using my name, my profile picture, and even the same cover image as my real account. They had then started sending friend requests to my friends. Luckily I have some pretty smart friends. They immediately became suspicious and, even better, they let me know about it. I sat down and fixed the problem. Some of the things I did, I should probably have done a long time ago but I figured, “Hey, I’m not famous, why would someone want to hack into my account and cause trouble? I especially didn’t think anyone would want to pretend to be me. Apparently I was wrong.

Apparently, I wasn’t “hacked.” Someone had signed up for a new Facebook account using my name and current profile picture. I did some research and discovered that one of the motivating factors for these scam artists is just that. They impersonate someone they’re not and make friends with that person’s friends. Then they start asking for money or trying to get them involved in scams.

What did I do?

Obviously, I couldn’t just ignore the imposter. Here are the steps I took to fix the problem:

  1. I changed my password. I used the application LastPass to generate a secure password for my account. The fact that I still had access to my Facebook account meant that, even if the account had been hacked, I could perhaps stop the person from doing anything worse.
  2. I made sure that there were no new or unfamiliar email addresses associated with my account. To do that, I went into General Account Settings and clicked on the word “Edit” next to Contact. (This is something you should do fairly regularly, by the way.) Here’s what it looks like. (Note that I blurred my personal information.)
    An image of the general settings tab of Facebook showing how to see what email accounts it has associate with it.
    Checking the Email Accounts Associate with Facebook

    Stopping the Imitator

    With my account secured, I looked up the imitator. Luckily I was able to see the account and report them to Facebook. I did so by clicking on the ellipsis (…) to the right of the Message button and then selecting Report.

    An image of the dropdown menu with the Report command.
    Reporting a Profile on Facebook
    When I did, I got three options: * Report something shared by Irene * Report this profile * I want to help Irene I selected “Report this profile” and got the following:

    • This person is annoying me
    • They’re pretending to be me or someone I know
    • They’re sharing inappropriate or offensive posts
    • This is a fake account
    • This profile represents a business or organization
    • They’re using a different name than they use in everyday life
    • They’re underage

    I selected the second option, and clicked Continue. I was asked “Who are they pretending to be?” with the following choices:

    • Me
    • Someone I know
    • A celebrity

    I picked “Me” and followed through the rest of the instructions. Once that was done, I received notification from Facebook telling me they were investigating the report and would get back to me. The follow-up came quickly. The other account was suspended within an hour. I suggest you act as quickly as possible if this happens to you, because once the impersonator realizes that you are aware of what is happening, they may block you, making it harder to report the problem.

    Preventing a Repeat

    1. I went to settings and selected Privacy. I made sure that my posts are only shared with Friends.
    2. I also selected Timeline and Tagging and made sure that only Friends can see what’s posted on my Timeline.
    3. I also went back to the Security tab and turned on:

    Login Alerts – This means I get an alert when someone logs in using an unrecognized device or browser. This seems like a pain in the rear end, but better safe than sorry!

    Login Approvals – This means that if someone tries to sign in to my account using an unrecognized device or browser, I have enter a login code that they will send to my phone. Another painful step, but it will help keep the account secure.

    Protecting the Innocent

    The last thing I did was go to my profile (on the web browser, click the picture of you at the top of the page) and then select Friends.

    A picture showing where to select your Facebook Profile
    Selecting your Facebook Profile

    Now this isn’t obvious. Click on the pencil icon. It’s the button to the right of “Find Friends”. When you click on that button, you are given the opportunity to edit your privacy. Click that and then change the first option, “Who can see your friends list?” to Friends. This helps prevent an imitator from going to your Friends list and picking a bunch of people.

    An image of the security settings for Facebook Friends.
    Who can see your Friends?

    Whew!

    With all of that done, I hope that my friends will not be bothered again. At least, not by someone pretending to be me!  

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