Did some gorgeous model just send you a friend request? You search your memory but just can’t seem to remember the person trying to add you as their friend. Are they for real or is this a fake friend request?
Why Would Someone Bother to Create a Fake Friend Request?
You may receive fake Facebook friend requests for any number of reasons, some harmless, some malicious, here are some types of people that might send you fake and/or malicious friend requests:
Social Engineering Methods
Scammers may create fake Facebook profiles and request to be your friend in order to gain more 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.
You may also get requests from attackers that post malicious links to malware or phishing sites which may end up in your Facebook newsfeed after you accept their friend request.
As the MTV television show “Catfished” has shown time and time again, the person behind that sexy profile pic may be nothing close to what they advertised. Catfishers may 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 they find a willing victim.
Ex-wife / Husband / Girlfriend / Boyfriend
If a relationship ends badly, you may end up unfriending that person. You may think that they are gone and out of your circle of Facebook friends, but they may try to find their way back in by creating a false profile and befriending you using their new alias.
This allows them to keep up with what you are up to without you knowing that it’s them on the other side of the screen. Also, never forget, you may have ‘unfriended’ the person, but your friends may not have. Through those friends information about you can still be obtained.
Current Wife / Husband / Girlfriend / Boyfriend
If your spouse or significant other is trying to test your fidelity in an unscrupulous manner, they may resort to creating a false profile using an attractive profile picture to entice you into becoming their friend so that they can further test you by trying to get you to respond to their suggestive posts or chats. They could record this information with the intent of using it against you later. You see, this is why we can’t have nice things.
Private investigators could also use false profile friend requests to help them learn more information about you. The kind of information that you normally would restrict from public view and reserve for friends only. These types of investigations are the pinnacle of social engineering tricks used to obtain information you normally would never give.
How Can You Spot a Fake Friend Request?
There are several clues that the friend request you received might not be genuine. Here are five questions you should ask yourself to help determine if the friend request might be from a fake profile:
1. Do You Know the Requester or Have Any Friends in Common With Them?
Although obvious, this is the first clue. If you can’t recall ever meeting this person in real life or meeting through any mutual friends, then it is likely a friend request sent to you under false pretenses.
Check their friends list (if it’s viewable) and click the “mutual” list to see whom you both know. Check with your mutual friends to see if they know them. It only takes one friend to not realize they are helping the scam.
2. Is the Friend Request From an Attractive Person of the Opposite Sex?
If you’re a guy and you get a random friend request from a beautiful woman, then this is your first tip-off that it might be a ruse. Same holds true for the ladies. A friend request with a picture of an attractive person posing in a provocative way is often the bait used by those creating fake friend requests.
3. Does the Request Come From a Person With a Very Limited Facebook History?
If, according to their Facebook timeline, the person just joined Facebook an extremely short time ago, then this is a huge clue that the friend request is bogus. Most legitimate Facebook users will have a long history on their timeline dating back several years.
Fake profiles are often created hastily and most profiles will indicate when the person joined Facebook. If their Facebook timeline says they joined Facebook 12 days ago then the person is most likely trying to scam you, unless it’s your grandmother, who is very late to the Facebook party and has a legitimate reason for having a limited history.
4. Does the Person Have a Unusually Small or Large Number of Friends, and Are They All the Same Sex?
Fictitious profiles may have an extremely small, or possibly a large number of friends on their friends list. The reason? They have likely spent very little effort on setting up the fake profile, or they have ‘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 they are targeting when they send out their 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.
5. Is There Very Little Personal Content on Their Timeline?
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.
Next time you receive a random friend request, ask yourself the questions above. If the answer is yes to more than one or two of them, then you may have just spotted yourself a fake friend. If you are like me, you have no friends (unhappy-face) No really, I have friends (happy-face)