In what many have lamented as an alarming display of how people will believe anything, there have been torrents of messages on Facebook Messenger claiming that the receiver’s account has been cloned and that the sender had received a new friend request with the receiver’s name. The message then instructs the receiver on how to send the same message to other people saying they should not accept a new friend request. And the chain continues.
Chain Letter is the term used to describe such messages which tries to convince the reader to make copies and forward to others. They are common in religious and non-religious circles and strive more in a superstitious society. Or so many thought.
“It’s bogus. And you’re just making it worse,” the Plaquemines Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said about the viral inbox messages which have shown to a great extent that the desire to not think information through is not an exclusive preserve of people in a certain part of the world. Plaquemines Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana.
An older version of the message read,
“Heads-up!! Almost every account is being cloned. Your picture and your name are used to create a new facebook account (they don’t need your password to do this). They want your friends to add them to their Facebook account. Your friends will think that it’s you and accept your request. From that point on they can write what they want under your name. I have NO plans to open a new account. Please DO NOT accept a 2nd friend request from ‘me’. please forward to all your contacts.”
“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!”
Both are fake and intended solely to make the reader circulate the message.
Chain messages use a number of methods to achieve its aim. One of them is emotionally manipulative stories as has been seen in the case of a person who sends out a message about his friend’s child who is dying of cancer and all he wants is for you to forward to others so that Facebook or some other medium can fund the operation of the little girl if the views reach a certain target.
Another method used is the get-rich-quick scheme as has been seen in messages about how the sender just got a payment or call card and how you can also get yours if you spread the message, join and follow the link. These links can sometimes be dangerous as your information can be hacked. The receiver does not realize that if this message says forward to others, then the information in it does not apply to the person from whom he received it. Information including the payment the writer said he received, even had it been true that someone somewhere reached such payment.
Yet another method is the exploitation of superstitious belief to threaten receivers. They are usually told how they will go to hellfire or die if they fail to send the information to others, or how something bad will happen in 7 days time. It is said to be a “chain” that should not be broken. In some societies, physical violence is threatened.
Before now, chain letters were physical letters received in the mailbox. Today, chain letters are often sent via email messages, postings on social network sites, and text messages.
In 1988, a yet to be identified person in the US wrote one of such messages which later famously became known as Make Money Fast. The letter encouraged its readers to forward one dollar to a list of people provided in the text, and to add their own name and address to the bottom of the list after deleting the name and address at the top. The reader was supposed to benefit from the resulting back and forth of one dollar for every copy containing his name. This kind of message is illegal in the US because it promises cash or any kind of reward. Nigerian laws are silent on it in specific but prohibit obtaining something under false pretense. Unfortunately, the sender of a Chain Letter usually sincerely believes it to be true. A Chain letter may also have started out of genuine concern without knowing how far it would go or while in ignorance only for it to be impossible to retract because it had gone too far.
While most mistook a clone for a hack, they are different. A clone would be said to have happened if someone else creates an account using the same information and name of an existing account. This is not strictly a clone in the sense that for both accounts to be perfectly identical, the cloner must also copy all posts and uploads and post and upload them to the new account. Though no matter how it is done, a Facebook clone may create some confusion.
Users have been adviced to search their names on Facebook to see if some other account pops up and to promptly report such account as impersonating.
A hack, on the other hand, would mean the new user got access to one’s account or information which was not made public. This did not happen around the period neither is it the claim of the misleading message.