Thanks to the explosion of mass media and social networking, privacy seems to be little understood in the modern age.

Johannesburg - Imagine a clone of yourself that defrauds your friends of their money and damages your professional reputation.

Technology hasn’t gone that far just yet, but fraudsters are using the next best thing available to them now.

Facebook cloning appears to be on the rise in South Africa because of the ease of this scam and its potential to lull people into a false sense of security.

Parkmore resident Nicole Contini said she was informed by a friend this week that there was an identical copy of her account on Facebook.

This clone was sending friend requests to Contini’s friends, which scared her. “Because I have a business page, that’s what worries me the most,” Contini said.

Craig Rosewarne, a cybersecurity expert and director of Wolfpack Information Risk, said there were different ways an account could get cloned.

They either get your password illegally or they create a false Facebook account and add you as a friend.

Once you accept them, they simply copy all your photos on to another Facebook account they create with your name and information, which makes it look just like the original.

“There’s always different flavours of these scams,” Rosewarne said.

Once they have control of your account or a cloned version, they send out a message to all the people on your friends’ list which claims that you are in trouble and asks your friends to donate money to an account the fraudsters have set up.

Contini said she never accepted friend requests from people she didn’t know.

Rosewarne said he knew about the scam because it had happened to his brother-in-law. “You have to be vigilant, but it’s extremely hard, even for the trained eye,” he said.

In one hour , four South African Facebook users said their accounts had been cloned.

This is according to WhoTalking, a site that tracks what people are speaking about on social media sites.

Rosewarne said a similar scam could happen with free e-mail accounts and that once the cybercriminal had got what they wanted they deleted everything, including your contact list.

“They’re just malicious.”

Rosewarne said his company had been working with government on a site that details all cyberscams and frauds going around South Africa and that it should launch soon. - The Star