Facebook: Imposters and Impersonators Increasing

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picture-111CNN has highlighted impersonators on Facebook and similar social networking sites hijacking people’s accounts and using them to bilk friends out of thousands.

The phenomenon started with email and even cell phone texts, but is now branching out to Facebook and Myspace.

The thief first breaks an account (Facebook, Myspace, etc.) and then uses some of the key information like email delivery destination. The hijacker then sends out a bulletin, status line, or other mass broadcast from the site urging friends to come help.

When friends come to help, they are given a story about the person being stranded somewhere and needing help getting home. In one case, the hijacker claimed that he was robbed at gunpoint in London and had only his passport and nothing else and needed money to get home. Another claimed he had lost his bags to a taxi thief and had a $2,400 hotel bill and return airfare to pay.

In many cases, friends come to help without question, sending wire transfers, overnighting cashiers checks, and so forth.

The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning on their website about the phenomenon, targeting Facebook’s users specifically. The BBB reports that the instances on Facebook are the fastest-growing in this fraud trend.

The extortion isn’t limited to money. In one case, a Wisconsin man posed as a woman on Facebook to get teenage boys to send him naked photos of themselves. Others have used it to heap abuse or make character attacks on other users or people.

Two ways to stay safe from this phenomenon: keep your accounts private and keep your security software updated.

Using passwords that contain no dictionary words, mixtures of letters and numbers (i.e. “L5xiN09” as opposed to “Ilike42”), etc. is recommended and changing passwords regularly is also encouraged. Don’t discuss passwords or give them out to friends or family and leave provisions in your will or other legal documents to have your accounts closed upon your death.

Keeping your anti-virus, firewalls, and other security software updated is also important. Some of these hackers have used simple keystroke recorders and basic snoop intrusions to find out passwords. This is especially true if the perpetrator knows the victim.

For Facebook’s part, their spokesman Barry Schnitt has said that they are implementing new security measures including better email-switching schema to better protect accounts. They work closely with those who’ve been hacked to quickly take care of it. A Seattle man whose account was hacked contacted Facebook and had his account suspended within a day, to prevent the hacker from continuing his charade.

Obviously, the best way to keep from falling for this is to never respond to these calls for help and to make a phone call or talk to the person face-to-face before sending any money or to warn them of their account’s violation.

The is a serious phenomenon, though currently it affects less than 1% of Facebook’s users and instances on Myspace are even more rare. The medium of choice appears to still be email.

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12 Comments
  1. wilhb81

    February 24, 2009 at 1:36 am

    To be honest, it is getting creepy to use my FB account, Craig. I think I have lose my confident on FB day after day…

  2. Craig (lapp)

    February 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I feel much better there then on http://www.myspace.com!!

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  4. Free_Dating_Service

    August 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Facebook is still beter than myspace!

  5. Free_Dating_Service

    August 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Facebook is still beter than myspace!

  6. callipygian

    October 6, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Why do these articles all misspell the word impostor? I'm just curious…

  7. callipygian

    October 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Why do these articles all misspell the word impostor? I'm just curious…

  8. Grand Eclectus

    January 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Why doesn't FaceBook have a easy way to report frauds? There are tons of idiots who impersonate celebs. When one of these freaks dupes some young fan, the consequences could be horrific.

  9. G Z

    February 23, 2010 at 2:44 am

    yes, i'm experiencing this fraud/impersonation first hand! my teenage daughter has been contacting these people who have yahoo accounts passing themselves off as the jonas brothers or more specifically danielle deleasa jonas and making her think they are actually the jonas brothers and danielle! i do not know what their purpose is, but they have completely brain washed her and played with her emotions! this should be a crime! someone needs to put an end to this. my daughter is very impressionable and very naive unfortunately, something these people prey upon! the two addresses i know about are jesspuertorico@yahoo.com and daniellejonas87@yahoo.com. Yahoo should be made responsible for this mess! any mental anguish should be compensated!

  10. Carol

    June 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    This report is all well and good.. BUT Facebook does NOT answer school systems administrators about those who stealing the identity of teachers in order to find the culprit that is causing havoc with teachers reputations, These imposters are both dangerous and many are falling as helpless prey to these sick people, even threatening their very livelihood thorugh vicious rumors. WHERE TO GO with this.. I know those who are now hiring private investigators and now are bringing these threatening messages to the FBI.. what a shame that they have to resort to such extreme measures, when FACEBOOK should be able to handle these things, It seems to me, that if the report is accurate and only ONE percent are affected, FACEBOOK and particularly BARRY SCHNITT , spokesman, could offer assistance and nab these culprits. I have a feeling that one day , facebook will face a suit in connection with these serious cases. GET THE OFFENDERS off instead of praising the success of your social site Barry….

  11. Gregsvb

    March 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm

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    This is the biggest BS I hear… My friends account has been hacked and the hacker changed the username and the password and the email address on account. We have been trying to contact Facebook, reporting it, trying to reset accounts – nothing works and as far as Facebook support? IT DOES NOT EXIST… THEY KEEP SENDING US RESET PASSWORD, BUT THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THAT THE CODE GOES BACK TO THE HACKER’S EMAIL. It has been two long weeks (March 11th to be exact and as of today the account is still hacked and the person is well know Singer and has over 4300 fans and this hacker is starting to post things that really offends my friend. So, whoever this Barry Schnitt is – he apparently does not know anything about his company or his support.

    Thank you

  12. Dring56

    February 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I couldn’t have said this better myself.

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