5 common Facebook “friend request” scams
Needless to say, there are plenty of scams on Facebook. Whether it’s fake giveaways, like-farming pages, phishing attacks and spamming links, you only need to scroll through your newsfeed for a few moments before you come across something suspicious.
A portion of these scams are initiated via a simple friend request. You login, and that red number appears over your Contacts icon at the top of your newsfeed.
Of course it could be a legitimate request from someone you know wanting to be a Facebook friend. Or it could be the beginning of any of the following five scams….
Number 5 happened to me this past weekend thus the motivation to prepare this article. I’ve also included some info at the end of this article to help YOU fix this type of problem referring to an easy to follow graphic.
- Facebook Profile Cloning Scam – If the Facebook request comes from someone you know, and in fact are already friends with on Facebook, then alarm bells should already be ringing, because this could be a cloning scam.
Facebook profiling cloning scams (a.k.a. Friend Imposter scams) are surprisingly effective yet simple to execute. A scammer searches for a Facebook profile with a friends list that is public to anyone. Most people do not make their friends list private, so the scammer has plenty of profiles to choose from.
The scammer then copies both the profile name and profile picture of the account they pick – both of which are also public – and creates a brand new account with that information, thus creating a clone account. If the Facebook account targeted by the scammer has any other public photos, the scammer may well upload those photos to the new cloned account as well.
From there the scammer sends friend requests to the friends of the account they cloned, in the hope a number of them will accept the request under the thinking that it is the friend that has either created a new account of that they were accidentally deleted and being duly re-added.
Once an invitation has been accepted the scammer can now see information on that account only intended for friends. Any number of scams can be carried out on the person who accepted the friend request, such as the “Friend in Crisis” scam, or any of the following three scams on this list.
Always verify friend requests before accepting, and make your friends list private so scammers don’t pick your account and impersonate you to your friends.
- Malware linker – Most typically these friend requests will appear to come from an attractive member of the opposite sex, but the scam itself is rather rudimentary (unless combined with above Facebook cloning scam for a more personal touch) but essentially involve the scammer sending you an unsolicited friend request and – if accepted – following that up by sending you links to malicious websites that will attempt to install malware onto your computer when visited.
Either that or you’ll be sent to a survey scam, which harvest personal information by luring you into completing intrusive questionnaires. If you’re fooled into downloading a suspicious file to your computer, run an antivirus scan right away.
- Phishing linker – Very much like the above malware linker, the stranger you just accepted (again often posing as a member of the opposite sex – or again it may be combined with the Facebook cloning scam) will send you links to spoof phishing websites.
Typically these sites will be designed to look like the Facebook login page, asking for your Facebook username and password, which are then duly sent to the scammer, compromising your Facebook account.
- The “Looking for Love” Romancer – Finding love on the Internet is increasingly common, and this fact is exploited by scammers who target the lonely and vulnerable. This scam can be initiated on dating websites, through email, or on social media websites like Facebook. Scammers locate profiles to target and send a friend request. Upon the victim accepting the friend request, they are sent messages from the scammer who is attempting to strike a romantic relationship online with the ultimate goal of gaining the trust of the victim.
Once that trust has been established, the scammer will use one of a number of techniques to attempt to extort money from the victim. For example the scammer will tell the victim they want to visit but cannot afford transportation costs, or that the victim needs money for emergency medical bills, or money for equipment that will allow them to keep in contact with the victim.
- The Identity Thief – Many of us share plenty of information with our friends. Photos, birthdays, home towns and a plethora of statuses containing a variety of personal information about us. And while this information can look innocuous and harmless, if it falls into the wrong hands it can be an identity thieves treasure chest.
If you accept the friend request of a stranger, or a stranger posing as a friend, then they can accumulate a lot of information about you based on what you continually upload onto the site. This information can be used to compromise other online accounts, create new accounts in your name and just generally impersonate you on the Internet or even in real life.
Identity theft is serious and can take victims years to recover from. So always make sure that your Facebook friends are who they say they are and never share too much information on your accounts just in case someone does compromise your account
Dispelling a myth There are plenty of legitimate scams on Facebook, but there are also plenty of myths as well. One such myth is the fallacy of friend requests that can “hack” your computer, “erase your hard drive” as well as other types of pseudo-jargon drivel that sounds more akin to Hollywood’s take on computer security.
As you can see from the list above, there are plenty of scams that can be initiated by a simple friend request. But don’t be confused. There is no such thing as magical hackers that can do anything they please by merely being accepted as a friend on Facebook. Friend requests can initiate a scam but they still require the victim to take further actions, such as giving away too much information, or by visiting a dangerous website.