If you accept Jayden K. Smith as your friend on Facebook, your computer will spontaneously explode. And if you don’t forward this to 10 people in the next 30 minutes, your pants will catch on fire, your pet fish will float to the top of the bowl and you won’t be welcome to enter the gates of heaven.
That is more or less the warning that is circulating through Facebook Messages about a nefarious hacker who will send you a friend request and upend your social media existence if you accept it.
If you have more than a couple hundred Facebook friends, you’ve almost certainly received this warning on multiple occasions and perhaps even forwarded it to your own friends.
But a fact check reveals it to be a bunch of malarkey; merely the latest in the never-ending hoaxes that spread like wildfire on the social media giant.
The truth is that Jayden K. Smith is no more real than the monster hiding under your kid’s bed. A check of Facebook reveals that there is only one person with that name. He’s from the Eastern Region of Iceland, and Jayden K. Smith isn’t actually his real name. He thought he was being clever by changing the name on his Facebook profile after the chain message made the fictitious Jayden K. Smith an internet sensation, but he said Monday that he immediately realized he had made a mistake by changing his name.
“I have friend requests piling in from names I can’t even pronounce,” he said. He added later, “If I could hack anything, I would change my name back.”
The only other mention of Jayden K. Smith on Facebook is a Page that was set up after the hoax began. But by Monday, even the anonymous person behind that page had had enough. “Please stop asking me if I am a hacker. Stop asking me to hack your ex,” they wrote.
No, Jayden K. Smith isn’t real. And even if he was, he couldn’t hack your Facebook account if you accepted a friend request from him. He couldn’t hack your account even if he wanted to.
As Mark Zuckerberg’s minions have pointed out numerous times as these hoaxes have become more prevalent over the past few years, it is impossible for someone to hack your account merely by becoming your friend. It doesn’t matter if that “friend” is posing as a love-starved 21-year-old college coed from The Netherlands but is really a 60-year-old man from Australia, or even your lifelong friend who has fallen victim to an account cloning scheme, simply accepting their requests will not compromise your Facebook account, nor will it compromise any information stored on your computer or mobile device.
That isn’t to say that the average Facebook user should accept every friend request that comes their way. There are plenty of scammers with nefarious intent who lurk on Facebook. By accepting their requests, you expose yourself to their posts. You also open the door for them to contact you through the network’s messaging platform and allow them access to any information — such as your email address or phone number — that is intended only for the eyes of your real friends. If you then click on an innocent-looking link that is posted or sent to you in a message by one of these fake friends, you will have fallen victim to a phishing scheme.
That does not change the fact that your account cannot be hacked by accepting a friend request. In fact, many people who believe they have been hacked really haven’t been, after all. One of the most common tricks of Facebook troublemakers is the account cloning scheme. It is usually discovered when someone receives a friend request from someone they’re certain they’re already friends with. They alert that person, who then warns the rest of their friends not to accept any new friend requests from them because they’ve been hacked.
In reality, that fake friend request did not come from the victim’s legitimate account. Instead, the victim’s account was merely cloned. Here’s how it works: The scammer scours Facebook for users who do not make their friends lists private. Those aren’t hard to find; most of us don’t make those lists private. Once they’ve randomly chosen their victim, they will set up a new account in the same name as that victim and steal the victim’s profile picture to use on the new account.
Often, the perpetrator will use these fake accounts to attempt a scam that computer whizzes like to refer to as the “friend in peril” trick. For example, if you receive a friend request from Ben Garrett and approve it, not realizing it’s a fake Ben Garrett, you might soon receive a message from the fake Ben Garrett, who says that he is stranded in Seattle and needs money to purchase airfare back to Tennessee. It’s an easy trick to fall victim to (though in my case I’m convinced that 98 percent of my Facebook friends would happily leave me stranded in Seattle).
None of this is to say that your Facebook account cannot be hacked. It does happen, and to people you know. But for it to happen, someone has to figure out your password, or you have to mistakenly give an ill-intended app permission to post on your behalf, though the latter isn’t a true hack.
In the event that you are hacked, Facebook generally responds quickly and aggressively. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg believed that yours truly had been hacked a few weeks ago, although what really happened was someone knew my password and thought it would be funny to log in pretending to be me. Facebook locked me out of my account as a security precaution, and proving my identity to get back in was harder than getting a boat-load of Cuban rum past U.S. Customs at a port in Miami.
One of Facebook’s ugly underbellies (like all social media platforms, it has multiple underbellies, all of them unsightly) is the blurred line between truth and fiction. Users who share or forward what appears to be truth are often giving an increased shelf life to “fake news” that runs rampant on the network. Even worse, the true intent behind the Jayden K. Smith hoax is to turn well-meaning Facebook users into unintended spammers. Somewhere this week, someone is sitting behind an iPhone giggling as he thinks about the millions of Facebook users who are spamming their friends’ inboxes with messages about another Facebook user who doesn’t exist.