While most users have found Facebook a friendly and useful platform on which to express their views, network and sell their products, fraudsters and stalkers have seen it as a a fertile hunting ground and are laughing all the way to the bank.
The world of fun and opportunity for some has turned out to be an outpost of pain and grief for others. From malicious haters cloning other users and opportunists creating fake accounts using names and pictures of celebrities, to political activists stalking their opponents, criminals waylaying women and raping or killing them and fraudsters swindling the gullible, it has been a sorrowful experience for many.
Prominent people who have been cloned on Facebook include President Robert Mugabe, Transport Minister Obert Mpofu, South African gospel musician Lundi Tyamara and Zimbabwean singer Sandra Ndebele.
Most of the clone accounts have been used for malicious posts, taking advantage of the absence of the celebrities to paint a bad image of them.
While some, like Lundi, have warned the public against following those posts purported to be theirs, others, like Mpofu have let them be, either because they have not been alerted to them, or in the hope that they will not one day come back to haunt them.
Facebook has now become a source of “juicy” stories for some armchair journalists. As a result, some prominent people have been quoted based on malicious posts they never made.
“I have never been on Facebook. I am not interested in that thing. To me, it is just something that belongs to those with very little to do in real life,” said one celebrity who has been cloned.
“I have heard that there are some accounts that have been opened in my name, but as long as someone does not kill me, life will still go on. Only what I do should worry me, not what someone who wishes to be me does. I will not open an account just to counter haters. Let them continue, but they will one day get tired.”
Desperate for love
The criminally-inclined have also been quick to use this social network. A number of accounts exist on Facebook, which fraudsters use to swindle those desperate for love.
The accounts, with profile pictures of stunning women but bearing false names, are used to trick gullible men into parting with their money. Zwelibanzi Ndlovu* is one of those who were nearly scammed.
“I found this beautiful woman (name supplied) who sent me a friend request and soon after I accepted, she started chatting with me,” said Ndlovu.
“One thing led to another and very soon, we were in love and funny enough, already planning marriage. We had still not met and when I requested that we do so, the lady told me she was stranded in Limpopo and desperate to come to Johannesburg.”
Ndlovu, who had initially promised to send the R300 required by his “lady” the following day, became suspicious after he had failed to do that, due to work commitments.
“She sent me inbox messages complaining as if I was already her husband and that really put me off. When I asked her it was me or the money she wanted, she went ballistic and told me that she was being proposed by better men than me. I told her to leave me alone and she immediately blocked me.
“I only got to realise that I was nearly scammed when a friend of mine of a similar experience at the hands of someone with a different name. Apparently, the method used was just the same. Coincidentally, the two different people used the same mobile phone number,” he said.
In hindsight, Ndlovu should have been suspicious of a possible scam attempt whose every sign was there from the beginning.
Scammers are men
“She always requested airtime from me, claiming that her phone was about to run out of airtime for us to continue chatting and the network she requested airtime for was different from the number she had given me,” he opened up.
“We never communicated through phone because she would press the answer button on the number she had given me, but pretend the phone had a problem and this kept going on for some time, till we broke up.”
Apparently, the scammers are all men, who would not speak on the phone as this would easily expose them. Not all of the targeted victims have always been lucky though, as some have already reported having lost money in the same manner that missed Ndlovu.
- Not his real name.
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