Call it, ‘stranger danger’ Facebook style.
We’ve all accepted friend requests from someone we don’t know in real life. Maybe you see that they’re friends of friends or maybe it’s from a pretty girl or maybe you just don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. The fact is, accepting a friend request from a stranger has the potential to harm you and your family in real life.
Facebook said it removed 5.4 billion fake accounts in 2019. It’s one of the social media giant’s biggest challenges and it has implemented improvements in how someone can so easily create a new Facebook account.
What do scammers even hope to gain by becoming your friend?
Remember, your Facebook friends can see your complete profile which might include your birthdate, where you live, where you went to school, cities you’ve lived in before, where you ‘check in’ or travel. By looking at your profile they might also see the name of your spouse and your kids and other relatives. They can see your posts and photos which might include pictures of your kids and where they go to school. Friends can also see those vacation photos so if you’re sharing pictures of your toes in the sand, a stranger you’re friends with on Facebook will get that information.
Sure, it might seem far-fetched that a bad guy would go to those lengths to break into your house or approach your children. There’s a better chance that they can use some of the information to begin stealing your identity. Think of all that information you’ve shared and those Facebook quizzes you’ve completed.
By accepting friend requests from people you don’t know, you’re also giving them your list of Facebook friends so they’ll be able to send them requests. If you’ve accepted a friend request from a fake account you’ll probably see that you have at least one mutual friend.
A few months ago I got a friend request from a Lacy Andrews. Her profile picture showed a very attractive young woman. The photo looked suspiciously like a photo you’d find of a super model. I did a reverse image search on the photo and saw that it had been taken from a website. There was no Lacy Andrews. The account was fake but the scammer had successfully gotten my Facebook account information by friending two of my friends who did accept her request.
So what do you do?
Go through your friends list and look for people you don’t know in real life. Look at their profile picture and timeline. If it looks suspicious report it to Facebook. If you don’t know them and don’t have at least a half-dozen friends in common, you don’t want to be their friend on Facebook.