As of Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Beware of strangers: That’s good advice for any age, especially for adults who are into social media.
And if you’ve been on sites such as Facebook long enough, chances are you’ve run into your share of strangers, some of who may have been scammers looking to friend you and steal your identity.
You’ve probably seen this happen – “Who is this person asking to be my friend? I don’t know them! – but you didn’t know what it was called. Called “farcing,” the scam begins when you receive a friend request from someone who supposedly shares mutual friends with you.
Once you accept the request the scammers search your online profile to collect personal data about you, such as your hometown, schools you attended, employers, siblings and vacation spots. They often go a step further by contacting you directly through the site’s direct messaging feature to ask more questions about you, based on the information you’ve already posted. After you have accepted their request, they continue their scheme by sending friend requests to your friends, and then their friends.
This is a pretty insidious scam as it doesn’t have the obvious trademarks of more well-known scams, such as bogus lottery or sweepstakes notifications, or the request by Nigerian royalty to help move their millions out of the country. It doesn’t appear harmful, but it could lead to someone committing fraud and other crimes – and all in your name.
Fortunately, prevention is right at hand:
- Use the privacy settings on social media websites to manage who can access your profile
- If you get a friend request from someone you don’t know, don’t accept it. If you are interested in accepting it, ask the mutual friends who you supposedly have in common who the person is. If they can’t give you definite answers about the person, ignore the request.
- Be cautious if you receive direct messages from new friends who request details or your personal information.
- Notify the website if your profile has been hacked or images have been stolen.
Several government websites have good information detailing scams out there, as well as information to help you avoid these. Start here, https://www.usa.gov/online-safety , to find out more.