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Facebook flaw: fake Messenger accounts can't be reported

Sam Meadows
There is currently no way to report a Messenger account for impersonation - AP

Fraudsters are exploiting a security flaw on Facebook Messenger to impersonate users and target family and friends.

Anyone can set up an account on Messenger, Facebook’s messaging service, with just a mobile phone number, meaning you do not need a full Facebook profile. However, reporting someone impersonating you on Facebook must be done via their profile, leaving no way to report these cases.

The social media giant said it was aware of the flaw and was taking steps to fix the system. It said you can report an individual message; however, this asks for a reason such as abusive content or spam links, and  the options do not include impersonation. It is also not immediately clear how to report a message through the Messenger app.

Identity fraud accounts for more than half of all cases reported to Cifas, the fraud prevention organisation.

One 86-year-old Telegraph Money reader discovered fraudsters had stolen her Facebook profile picture and set up a Messenger account with her name. The scammer messaged all of her friends to inform them of a “united nation tax refund” [sic]. In order to release the money, £200 of Amazon vouchers were required.

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Martyn James, of Resolver, the consumer champions, said social media companies needed to do more to combat fraudsters. “They need to admit there are fake profiles on their platforms. Just doing that would make people more cautious.”

A spokesman for Facebook said: “It is against our rules to use a fake name or a false identity on Facebook and Messenger. We have been committed to this policy since day one.”

Tony Neate, of Get Safe Online, the fraud advice firm, said: “These people are ruthless. They couldn’t care less who their victims are. They use the face of someone you know and trust to try to deceive you.”