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Financial fraud and access to confidential business data rank among scammers’ reasons for setting up fake profiles in Facebook identity theft schemes.
Right now, hundreds of people could be viewing your photos on Facebook — on an account that doesn’t belong to you. In recent years, Facebook identity theft has become a significant problem, leaving victims struggling to reclaim their rightful identities on the social media platform. What do you need to know, and how can you protect yourself?
Imagine receiving a sudden flurry of messages from friends and family members alerting you that someone is posing as you. After the initial shock, you might wonder why an individual would go to the trouble of setting up a fake profile that uses your name and other identifying details.
As banks and other financial institutions have become better at spotting fake identities, scammers have turned to using the identities of real people for a variety of purposes, including opening lines of credit and draining bank accounts. Setting up a Facebook profile can be one step in establishing ownership of an identity — especially if the scammer can manage to get the real identity owner locked out of their account in the process.
In addition to financial fraud, prospective scammers often have another goal in mind when they target specific individuals: access. Facebook identity thieves may target people in certain jobs — including CEOs, IT directors and human resources managers — because of their valuable access to data, people and financial resources.
By posing as a key executive in an organization, an identity thief may hit the jackpot by gaining access to computer systems that hold confidential customer data, employee Social Security and bank account numbers, or proprietary information. Scammers may set up a fake profile in your name as part of a social-engineering scheme designed to persuade your Facebook contacts to turn over information or access.
To help lock down your Facebook account and prevent identity theft, consider adjusting your privacy settings to control who can view your photos and posts. Allowing everyone — or even friends of your friends — to see your information can make you vulnerable to identity theft.
Avoid accepting friend requests from unfamiliar people, and use caution when posting photos; think twice before posting images that include your driver’s license or other documents with identifying information. In addition, consider setting your profile to unsearchable.
What if someone has stolen your identity on Facebook? If you receive a friend request from someone who already is on your friends list, you may be the victim of identity theft. You should take immediate action by reporting the suspect profile if you discover that someone is using your name, photo or other identifying details. In the event that an impostor reports your account as fraudulent and has you blocked, you may need to ask a friend to report the incident for you.