Friend Requests: Spam, Cloned or Just Fake?


A hoax has sparked a rash of Facebook posts and messages warning people their accounts have been hacked or copied and continually spreading this information is only making it worse.

SPAM FRIEND REQUESTS

A typical message, most often sent by a Facebook friend, reads, Hi....I actually got another friend request from you yesterday...which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears...then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too....I had to do the people individually. Good Luck.”

Scammers create fake Facebook profiles and request to be your friend to gain access to personal information that you restrict to "friends only." This information may include your contact information for spamming or other personal information that might be useful in setting you up for a phishing attack.

CLONED FRIEND REQUESTS

A cloning scam takes place when someone steals a Facebook user’s photo and other social information to create a second Facebook profile, reported Webopedia. They do not need the original person’s password and have not hacked or compromised their account. The scammer then sends friend requests from the fake profile to the original person’s friends list in hopes of mining more personal data or sending scam messages.

One easy way to check to see whether your account has been cloned is to search your name on Facebook, reported The Albany Times Union. If more than one account with your photo and details shows up, your account may have been cloned.

Simply contact Facebook using the “report this profile” link on the bogus account, and it will be removed within 24 hours.

FAKE REQUESTS

You may receive fake Facebook friend requests for any number of reasons — some harmless, some malicious. Types of people who send fake or malicious friend requests include:

  • Malicious linkers: You may receive friend requests from attackers who post malicious links to malware or phishing sites that end up in your Facebook news feed after you accept the friend request.

  • Catfishers: As the MTV television show "Catfished" has shown repeatedly, the person behind that sexy profile picture may look nothing like the picture. Catfishers create elaborate online profiles using pictures of models in an attempt to hook victims looking for love online. They may send out random friend requests to huge numbers of people before finding a willing victim.

  • Ex-wife, ex-husband, ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend: If a relationship ends badly and you unfriend the person, you may think your ex is out of your circle of Facebook friends. However, your ex can find a way back to your Facebook account by creating a false profile and befriending you using an alias. They keep up with what you are up to without you knowing your ex on the other side of the screen.

  • Current wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend: If your spouse or significant other is testing your fidelity in an unscrupulous manner, they may resort to creating a false profile with an attractive profile picture to test you by seeing if you respond to suggestive posts or chats. Your spouse could record this information with the intent of using it against you later

  • Private investigators: Private investigators can use false profile friend requests to learn more information about you — the kind of information that you normally restrict from public view and reserve for friends only.​

How to Spot a Fake Friend Request

Ask yourself these questions to determine if the friend request might be from a fake profile:

  • Do you know the requester or have any friends in common? If your answer is "no," you have your first clue. If you can't recall meeting the person in real life or meeting through any mutual friends, then the friend request may have been sent to you under false pretenses. Check the person's friends list if it's viewable and click the mutual list to see anyone you both know. Check with your mutual friends to see if they know the person.

  • Examine their profile picture. You can download the picture and do a reverse image search. Reverse Image Search can be done by uploading the photo on the Google search engine, which will give you results referring to where that image was found. If the request you received is fake, the image will belong to someone else. Usually, it is the picture of a lesser known celebrity. Reverse Image Search helps a lot in finding out whether the request you received is real or not.

  • You can also cross check the name and profile picture by referring to the requester’s other social media accounts such as Instagram or LinkedIn or Quora. If you find out that there is a person with the same profile picture but with a different name, then there is a higher probability that you received the friend request from a fake profile.

  • Is the friend request from an attractive person of the opposite sex? A guy who gets a random friend request from a beautiful woman he doesn't know should suspect a ruse. The same holds true for the ladies. A friend request with a picture of an attractive person posing provocatively is the bait often used by people who create fake friend requests.

  • Does the request come from a person with a limited Facebook history? If according to their Facebook timeline, the person joined Facebook a short time ago, this is a clue that the friend request is bogus. Most legitimate Facebook users have a long history on their timeline dating back several years. Fake profiles are often created hastily, and most profiles indicate when the person joined Facebook. If the requesters Facebook account and timeline were created 12 days ago, then the person is most likely trying to scam you. You likely won't see a lot of day-to-day activity on a fake profile because of the effort required to generate "real" content. You may see some pictures, perhaps some links, but you probably won't see a lot of location check-ins or status updates. This may or may not be true for scammers of the catfishing type, as they may spend a lot of time and effort making their online persona seem as real as possible.

  • Does the person have an unusually small or large number of friends and are they all the same sex? Fictitious profiles may have an extremely small or impossibly large number of friends on their friends list. The reason? They have likely spent little effort setting up the fake profile, or they shotgunned a ton of friend requests out and received a ton of responses. Another clue is the sex of those on their friends list. Depending on who the person behind the fake profile is targeting, you will likely see friends that are predominantly of the opposite sex of the requester since that is likely who the person is targeting with the fake friend requests. If the request is from a lady targeting men, expect almost all men in the friends list, instead of a mix of men and women like you would expect from a real person.

If in doubt, call your friend and ask them!

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