By Chris May
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s a dark side to Facebook, and it could put you at risk of losing your money, your reputation and even your friendships.READ MORE: CBS3 Pet Project: As Halloween Approaches, Remember Not All Dogs Will Enjoy Wearing Costumes
Criminals are copying Facebook pages and pretending to be you, and you may never even know it.
Joe Giacalone says somebody stole his Facebook page. They made an exact copy of it and then posed as him.
“When I clicked on it, I saw my face, I saw my cover page,” says Giacolone. “It was me. For all intents and purposes, it was me.”
He had no idea and only found out when the imposter tried to scam one of his Facebook friends by asking him for money.
“It was embarrasing,” says Giacolone.
It’s called Facebook cloning, and with just a few clicks of a mouse, cyber-criminals create a duplicate of you.
They have access to your friends, and they can do anything pretending to be you — unless a friend catches on.
It was Giacolone’s Facebook friend Joe Wolf who did catch on.
“Immediately, I thought to myself, ‘this is not Joe Giacalone,’” recalls Wolf. “That immediately set off bells.”
He alerted the real Giacalone, who was shocked.
“It’s not a good feeling when you think that you’ve been had,” says Giacolone. “It’s kind of creepy.”
Facebook allows you to restrict who can and cannot have access to your page, but many people don’t choose settings that offer enough protection.READ MORE: AIDS Walk Philly, Region's Largest HIV Awareness Event, Underway At Art Museum
“Perhaps a person doesn’t realize that they’re publicly sharing a lot of their information when they mean to be sharing it with friends,” explains Athas Nikolakakos, a Philadelphia attorney with extensive experience in cyberlaw at the law firm Baer Crossey.
He described the importance of settings to protect yourself from cloning.
“Just like the lock on your door, your privacy settings control what you share with the world,” says Nikolakakos. “If you’re just quickly snapping photos from an iPhone and not paying attention to where they’re going on Facebook, you might accidentally make it a little more public than you intended.”
Nikolakakos tells people to go through their settings periodically and make sure your posts and photos are private if you want to only share with friends.
That’s what Giacalone is doing now. He’s limiting access, and he’s relieved he did it before it was too late.
“Nobody had their reputation ruined, nobody had any money taken from them,” he says. “So this is an opportunity where I can start changing my online behavior.”
Giacalone contacted Facebook, and they deleted the phony profile.
Facebook’s links for people to report to if they believe someone is impersonating someone they know:
Facebook’s link on how people can control who can see their profiles and the content on their timeline:
Facebook’s instructions on how to find the privacy checkup on their profile:MORE NEWS: Religious Leaders Putting Faith Into Action To Stop Gun Violence In Philadelphia