This page describes a scam where a friend through Facebook Messenger asks for a “favor.”
The top portion of this document describes what friends can do to understand and report this problem to Facebook.
The remainder of this document provides information for people who have had their Facebook account hacked or copied to an imposter account. Additional steps for prevention are also included.
Using Facebook is like flying a plane. Most of the time, it runs on autopilot and is very simple, but sometimes we need to take some action to avoid having people get scammed.
It’s part of the responsibility of using Facebook to ensure that our friend and family don’t get scammed causing them to lose time, lose money, and possibly become a victim of identity theft.
You may receive a suspicious request through Facebook Messenger from a friend asking for a “favor.”
After a further exchange of messages, your friend asks you to drive around your city from one pharmacy or convenience store to another purchasing iTunes gift cards or pre-paid credit cards.
You might ask your friend, “Can I call you?” Their response might be something like, “My phone is broken.”
This friend may seem to know things about you that only your friend would know, so it seems like you are communicating with your friend.
What’s Going On?
Your friend’s Facebook account was probably hacked. The scammer can see any previous messenger communications you’ve had with your friend. The scammer can also see your private Facebook posts set to only be seen by friends. So, the scammer can say a few things that make it seem like the scammer is actually your friend.
Alternatively, instead of your friend’s account being hacked, it’s possible someone setup an imposter Facebook account, mimicking your friend. At some point, you saw a friend request come with your friend’s name and photo, so you accepted the request, which made your Facebook posts visible to the scammer. This is why it is important to verify all new friend requests to make sure they are legitimate.
What You Should Do
Most people will just ignore suspicious messages and do nothing more. This is a problem because it allows the scammer to continue using your friend’s account (or an imposter account) to defraud people.
If you receive a suspicious message, try to contact your friend directly by phone or text message.
Two Minute Solution
You should take two minutes to fix this problem rather than ignoring it.
STEP #1 — Check Friends List
Go to your All Friends page here Facebook.com/friends/list
STEP #2 — Look For Duplicates
Search for your friend’s name. If you see two entries, then it’s likely there is a duplicate imposter account setup. The legitimate account will be one that probably has a longer history of time on Facebook, and has more friends. The imposter account will have fewer posts, fewer friends, and possibly the recent suspicious exchange.
If there are no duplicates, and you can confirm that it is your friend’s actual Facebook account that a scammer has gained access to, you need to report the activity to Facebook.
STEP #3 — Report The Activity to Facebook
You need to report the activity to Facebook. The reporting process is slightly different depending on the situation.
IMPOSTER ACCOUNT — If you’ve identified a duplicate imposter account being used by a scammer, go to the profile page for that user and click or tap on the three dots menu button below their name and photo. Then do the following:
- Choose “Find support or report profile.”
- Select “Pretending to Be Someone”
- Select “A Friend”
- To the question “Which Friend?” enter your friend’s name. If you are on the imposter profile page, Facebook will find the legitimate friend in your friends list. You can select the actual friend profile as displayed by Facebook. This will alert Facebook to review the incident and delete the imposter account.
HACKED ACCOUNT — If you’ve identified that it is indeed your friend’s actual Facebook account that has been hacked, you can to to their profile page and click or tap on the three dots menu button below their name and photo. Then do the following:
- Choose “Find support or report profile.”
- Choose “I want to help.”
- Choose “Hacked” — This indicates that you would like to assist your friend in getting their account back. Once you select this, you will see a confirmation message, and a link to the Facebook page with more information. [View]
If You Are the Account Owner
If your account has been hacked, or an imposter account was setup, follow these steps.
- Go to Facebook.com/hacked to begin the recovery process.
- Choose from the available list of options, either “Someone else got into my account without my permission” or “I found an account which uses my name or photos.”
- You will be guided through the appropriate steps.
It’s important that you’ve identified the problem accurately. If your account has indeed been hacked, then following the recovery steps is helpful. However, if your account hasn’t been hacked, and the problem is really with an imposter account, then your efforts to recover the account will be a waste of time and not solve the problem. So, be sure to discern the problem. Get help from a tech savvy friend or your regular tech consultant.
Four Prevention Actions
Here are three easy prevention actions you can take.
#1 — Use Caution When Logging In
Be very careful when following a link that asks you to login to Facebook. Fraudulent links may send you to a page that looks like Facebook. Consider enabling two-factor authentication to ensure someone with your account password can’t easily gain access.
#2 — Hide Friends List
While you can’t prevent the creation of an imposter account, you can prevent or slow the spread of this problem. If you hide your friends list from public view, then a scammer won’t be able to easily contact your friends with fraudulent communications. This precaution will help protect your friends.
#3 — Be Careful When Accepting Friend Requests
If you receive a friend request from someone you know, make sure you don’t already have a established connection with that person on Facebook. Also, check the profile of the request. Are there many posts going back years, or just a few posts. When was the profile created? Scams and fraudulent requests usually come from accounts that were just recently established.
#4 — Beware of Hacked Accounts
As explained on this page, you may receive an unusual communication from a friend’s legitimate account, but if the account has been hacked, the request could be coming from a scammer. Use an alternate trusted method of communicating with your friend to confirm, such as calling them on the phone.
To learn more, read “Facebook Imposter Account.” [View]