Was your Facebook account hacked this week? Have you seen a few dozen messages from friends warning not to accept any new friend requests from them?
If the answer is yes, then chances are that you’ve fallen victim to a viral hoax that the Washington Post has likened to an old-fashioned chain letter, one that is spreading across the social media network. As the report noted, the hoax seemed to take two forms, messages to people saying that someone had hacked their account, and posts from friends warning others not to accept any new friend requests from accounts claiming to be them.
The trend has also caught the attention of the rumor-busting site Snopes, which notes that the messages actually play off a real but very rare phenomena where hackers “clone” someone’s account using their profile picture and then send new friend requests to their friends and family, using the new account to spread malware and try to glean their personal information. There doesn’t appear to be any new epidemic of account cloning to fuel the messages, the report pointed out.
As the report noted, users have gotten a message claiming that their account had been cloned:
“Hi … I actually got another friend request from you yesterday … which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears … then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too … I had to do the people individually. Good Luck!”
This is not the first Facebook hoax to gain viral attention this year. In February, another rumor spread claiming that users were only seeing updates from 26 of their friends, greatly limiting the number of people they see on a day-to-day basis. The hoax once again caught the attention of Snopes, which noted that it was not true. Variations of that hoax have floated around on Facebook for years, instructing users to comment on the pages of other friends to stir up the site’s algorithm and allow them to see updates from more people.
For those who fear that their Facebook page may have actually been hacked, they can check by searching for names similar to their own to see if their account had been duplicated or ask a trusted friend or family member if they had recently gotten a new friend request from them — though this could be done in person, no need to broadcast it to the world.