How to Stop Spammers From Stealing Your Facebook Identity

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen something like this lately:

Someone is posing as Jane Alvarez on Facebook. If you get a friend request from her, don’t accept. It’s a fake!

If I could find a way to get a dollar every time I’ve seen this lately, I could hire a peon to type blog posts for me. It’s an epidemic. Someone steals your name and profile picture, and then sends friend requests to all of your existing friends. Your existing friends see that friend request, and they accept, because they know and like you. Then the scammer sends them a direct message asking them for money, or asking them to click on some sketchy website, or whatever. It’s a problem, and it’s really creepy when it happens to you.

Here’s the thing, though: Crooks can take your photo and your name, but they’ll only do so if they can send friend requests to all of your friends. If your friend list isn’t available, you’re useless to them, because they need to be able to contact people who trust you. That means hiding your friend list so it can’t be seen by strangers is your best (and easiest) defense against this type of scam. There’s really no good reason to have your friends list available to the public anyway. It’s good for scammers, but it does nothing for you.

Here’s how to hide your Facebook friend list:

Go to your own profile page. Right under your cover photo, you’ll see links to About, Photos, and Friends. Click Friends.



On the far right, you’ll see a little pencil. Click it. That will give you a link to Edit Privacy. Click that too.



You’ll get a pop-up window. The first option will be about who can see your Friends list. You can click the drop-down menu on the left to choose Public, Friends, or Only Me. This should be set to¬†Only Me. Only Me does NOT mean only you will see the list. It means only you AND YOUR MUTUAL FRIENDS. Are we Facebook friends? Go right now and click on my Friends list. See all of our mutual friends? That’s what yours will look like when you set it to Only Me. It doesn’t mean that genealogists won’t be able to recognize each other, or check for mutual friends. It just means that you won’t also be able to see my in-laws, high school friends, etc. There’s no reason you need to, and there’s no reason your friends need to see yours. In contrast, if you choose Friends Only as your setting, you only need ONE dumb friend to victimize your ENTIRE friends list–your genealogy friends, your work friends, your elderly aunt who doesn’t know a spammer from a hole in the ground, etc. Do you have ONE dumb friend? Yes you do. Protect literally everyone you know from that dumb friend by choosing Only Me, so that only mutual friends can see each other. This way, you’ll at least limit the damage to one community of people who know each other, rather than literally every Facebook friend you have.



That’s all you have to do. Problem solved!

Photo by Don Hankins

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