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Is That Social Media Friend Request Real?

For many of us, social media has become a part of our daily routine. We use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family, Twitter to see what’s new in the world, and LinkedIn to build up our business network.

About 3.5 billion people around the world spend an average of 3 hours per day on social media sites. That includes both at home and at work.

Social media is all about connections, which is why friend requests are a big part of any of the platforms. Many people will instantly want to accept the request because they feel as if there will be some type of benefit to them, or because the person was “nice enough to want to connect.” Unfortunately, those friend requests aren’t always as innocent as they seem.

On Facebook alone, it’s estimated that there are 120 million fake user accounts. They can be set up to scam people out of money, push political propaganda, or any number of other nefarious reasons.

These requests to connect with you on social media are part of the problem of social phishing. This is where the same deceptive tactics used in phishing emails are used over social media.

What’s the Danger of Fake Friend Requests?

What’s the harm of connecting with someone on social media? There are several dangers you need to worry about.

Malicious Links

Sending links to a “cute video” or something you just “have to see” are both ploys used by social phishing scammers. Once they connect with you, they’ll use direct messaging on one of the platforms to send links to malicious sites that can immediately download malware onto your computer.

Spoofed Profile

If you have a private profile on a social platform, accepting a friend request can make it easier for a scammer to spoof your profile and then send out friend requests to people on your “friends” list. This happens all the time on Facebook, and you’ll often see friends post “if you get a friend suggestion, it’s not really from me!”

The Long Con

Criminals will also play the “long con” which is where they take a few weeks to get to know you by having seemingly innocent conversations with you over social media. Then there will come a point where they ask you for money or to “do them a favor.” These are typically financial scams.

How to Spot and Avoid Fake Friend Requests

Be discerning with any request you receive, and keep the following in mind:

Check the Person’s Profile

One of the signs of a fake account is that they won’t have any posts, or very few, on their profile. Any posts that do exist will be photos of them, possibly with a “pet,” which is designed to get you to let your guard down.

If you don’t know the person and their profile is fairly empty, it’s a good idea to ignore or reject that friend request.

Beware of a Person That’s Unusually Attractive and Flattering You

People are often taken in by flattery, such as, “Hey, your profile looked so cute, I just had to connect.” This is a ploy often used by scammers to get people to accept their friend request. They’ll also use fake profile pictures of someone attractive.

One way to double check whether a profile photo may be a fake is to do a reverse image lookup on Google and see if that image came from somewhere else.

Be Suspicious of a Person Saying They’re in the Military or Medical Profession (If you’re not)

Social scammers will often hide behind positions that are well trusted, such as someone in the military or a physician. If you’re not affiliated with either of these areas, be particularly suspicious of friend requests of this type.

Do Your Homework & Keep Your Profile Private

It’s not always possible to keep your profile private - for example on LinkedIn, you may be counting on recruiters finding you. However, where you can, keeping your profile private will reduce the number of fake friend requests you receive.

In addition, do your homework on a person before clicking to accept their friend request. This includes not only visiting their profile, but also searching the name on Google.

Ultimately, you want to treat a friend request with the same suspicion you would if a stranger just came up to you on the street and asked to hang out with you.


Get Help with Web Security to Improve Your Online Safety

The security experts at Cleartech Group can assist you with backstops when it comes to malicious websites and other online threats to help prevent a breach of your personal information.

Contact us today to discuss your security options! Call us to chat at 978-466-1938 or reach out online.

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