My No1 tip for safety on Facebook from scammers or not so nice “Friends” is to hide your Facebook Friend List.
Why Hide Your Friends List?
If your Facebook friends list is public you will be more of a target for scammers, and so will your friends. The most common scam, that has been around for years, is when a scammer “Clones” or copies and impersonates your Facebook profile, and pretends to be you, and then asks all your friends to re-friend you because you are shutting down your previous profile. Once the scammer has re-friended your friends to the fake profile, they will try to lure them into clicking a link either in a message, or on a post to your wall. The most common scam is often in relation to a competition where they exitedly claim they won a ton of money.
Have You Been “Cloned”? Edit 08/10/18
You may receive a message from a Facebook friend alerting you that your account sent out a second friend request to them, when you are already friends, or they may have got a scam like message. “Enter this amazing competition and win a free trip/dollars ect…” That came from your account. Was your account hacked? Not usually, it could be that your Facebook account was “Cloned” or replicated. A scammer may have copied your Facebook profile account entirely, in your name, using your existing profile pic, cover pick and even copied posts you have recently shared, to make a fake account look identical to yours. If your friends list hasn’t been made private, (see settings below) they will then go to as many friends as they can through your list and send out another friend request hoping that some might automatically accept a friendship without question. This then allows them to message your friends in your name with a scam of some sort.
The way to check if your Facebook profile has been copied/cloned is to either do a search within Facebook using the search bar top centre for your name to see if you can spot an identical profile. In some cases a scammer may block your real profile from their fake profile, meaning you won’t even see the fake profile showing up, so it is a good idea to ask a friend on Facebook to search for your name from their account to check, as they may not be blocked. Sometimes this is actually how you find out there are more than one of your profiles on Facebook, a smart friend on receiving a friend request from the fake account will do a search for your name in Facebook to see if there is a fake one out there. Your friend can then report the fake account to Facebook through the reporting process, click the 3 dots right of the profiles message tab and report. Please be sure your friend blocks the FAKE account, NOT your real one, or you will have to go through a complex I.D verification with Facebook to get your real account back.
Edit: 08/10/18 Cloned Account Hoax
There is a “Cloned” Facebook profile warning hoax going around Facebook asking people to copy and paste a warning out to their friends about a fake account in their name. Don’t share this, check your account as per above. If you have indeed been cloned, send out your own message to your friends being sure that you tell them that it is not a hoax. Unfortunately the people spreading this hoax are going to make it easier for scammers to clone accounts, as so many people will actually start to ignore real warnings. Hide your friends lists and other personal information to ensure you don’t get cloned!
The other thing that can happen with an open friends list, is that if you allow even your friends to see your friends list, you risk the scam spreading further, you may risk your family and friends being approached by someone they don’t know. I have also heard of “Friends” stealing friends, very creepy I know. I also know of some cases where people accepted a Facebook friend request from someone, only to have their friends list “harvested” for potential clients or network connections.
Very Important For Teens!
This is a very important setting for teens, not just to protect them from scams but also to protect them from bullying, blackmail and predatory behaviour. Bullying via fake accounts is the No1 way teens bully each other, and it spreads via open Friends Lists. If your child is being blackmailed or bullied online, a friends list that is open to the bully is very dangerous, they can send your child’s friends nasty messages about your child or photos of your child that have been doctored. Predators also can target groups of teens through open friends lists, and can blackmail kids into doing dangerous things, by threatening to post things to the child’s friends list if they have access to it.
Friends Trust Each Other
Introducing yourself on Facebook to someone as a “Friend of a Friend” engenders trust, and this is how scams, blackmail and dodgy deals are spread on Facebook.
The other most basic privacy issue is simply that you probably don’t really want the entire world knowing who your family and friends are. It’s as bad as just leaving your address book open for all to see and copy.
Edit: I’ve just been reminded, that some determined stalker types might try to find your friends by sending you a friend request, and then possibly seeing some of your friends pop up in their friend suggestion bar, “People You May Know”. There have been some reports that this might be a way around securing your Friends List. To add extra protection be sure you have all the privacy settings set up to their strictest setting, including only setting privacy settings for friend requests so that you will only receive friend requests “Friends Of Friends” NOT everyone. This means that someone who was trying to get to some of your friend, they would have to friend a friend of yours first before being able to send you a friend request. The point of hiding your friends list from everyone, is to protect your Facebook friends list from “Drive By” type scammers or stalkers, who are looking for an easy fish to catch. If it’s too hard…they move on to the next person who has very little privacy settings set up, and their friends list open.
Update 2017: Facebook have now included the “Hide Your Friends List” in the privacy settings
On Mobile Facebook
Go to your privacy settings from your profile Click the 3 horizontal lines lower right – Scroll down to “Settings & Privacy” – “Settings” Scroll down to “Privacy” and scroll down to “Who can see your friends list” Set to “Only Me”
(NEW October 2018) Protect your friends and yourself by setting this very simple setting. See the video below for instructions. Set up through a P.C Web Browser version of Facebook.
Below How To Hide Your Friends List On Mobile Facebook App
See More Privacy Settings Step By Steps in my Cyber Safety Manual, See Ad below.