FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - By now, Facebook users have probably seen multiple posts telling them not to accept another friend request from someone who is already their friend. But officials are saying this is a viral hoax—and when you think you're warning your friends about it, you're actually just helping to spread the scam. Meanwhile, one local tells us her aunt's account actually was cloned--and there may be some truth, at least at the root of all the chain messages.
Many Facebook users are receiving one more messages, coming from a friend, informing them they’ve received another friend request—and warning they may have been hacked. The messages, though slightly different in content, all basically say the same thing.
One message starts out like this:
“Hi…I actually got another friend request from you yesterday…which I ignored so you may want to check your account…”
But then it goes on to give instructions on how to forward the exact message to all your friends—essentially creating a chain-letter effect.
“…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! PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT A NEW ONE FROM ME AT THIS TIME.”
NDSU computer science assistant professor, Jeremy Straub, is also the associate director of the school’s Institute for Cybersecurity, Education and Research.
"What they're trying to get you to do in this case,” he said, “is to forward this message on to your friends and colleagues and family, to try to get them to forward it along further and further and further.”
Straub says it's not necessarily harmful to forward the message.
"It's not like other messages that maybe try to get you to go to a website where it's gonna try to steal some of your information or your username and password,” he said.
But it may not necessarily be completely harmless either.
“It could create kind of a chain where somebody might follow up with another message and ask somebody to do something that is more detrimental like that," Straub said.
By simply searching your name, you can see if your account has in fact been duplicated. But Straub says others may simply have your same name.
But while these Facebook messages may be a hoax, it doesn't mean actual profile clones aren't happening.
West Fargo mom, Destiny Dolan, says just a couple days ago, she got a second friend request from her aunt.
"Made a phone call and asked her if she had made a new Facebook and she said, 'no,' and to either delete them or block that person itself," Dolan said.
But Dolan says the hacker disappeared after her aunt made a simple threat.
"She somehow got a hold of this person with the new Facebook account and basically said, 'I need you to deactivate this and stop contacting my friends and family, and if you don't I'm gonna take it to law enforcement,'" Dolan said.
And that's what NDSU’s Jeremy Straub says you should do.
"And there are a lot of great resources out there that you can report this type of stuff to if you're concerned," he said.
Straub also tells us his students have been working to create algorithms: to identify fake news, election security and other related issues.