Beware of this Facebook scam

Blogger Steve Kelman sniffs out a Facebook phishing attempt, which serves as another reminder of the risks of social media.

Blog readers will know that I am a real Facebook fan, and it has been just amazing to see the spread of Facebook among folks working in the government (and in the tech industry serving government). At this point, government folks run just about neck and neck with students/former students as the largest category of my Facebook friends, and I really believe Facebook is a very easy-to-use, low-cost way to create social bonds among people who don't see each other all the time, which in the context of government can really be helpful in a world calling for more and more cross-organizational collaboration.

However, I think (not sure) I have discovered a very sophisticated Facebook scam, and wanted to warn blog readers about it -- and also ask if anybody else has been hit by the same thing.

Early last week, I got a Facebook friend request from somebody I didn't know. This generally happens to me about once every week or two -- the people are typically faculty or students in Third World countries, or strange motivational speakers and similar types whose pages show they have 3,000 Facebook friends. The motivational speakers I just ignore, but otherwise I typically send people back a message and ask them about themselves and why they friended me on Facebook. When I opened this friend request up, the picture was of a quite attractive woman. The Info was pretty basic but showed a number of "pages" the person was on and a list of other friends -- just like a normal Facebook Info page. However, there was no "send a message" icon, and without that, I just decided to ignore the request -- though, all other things being equal, the idea of an attractive woman as a Facebook friend is not unattractive (!) to me, as would be the case, I assume, with most guys.

Then a few days later I got another friend request. It was the same kind of thing, except with a different attractive woman, a different set of friends, a different set of pages. But it looked exactly like a normal Facebook page.

I can't be sure, of course, but my guess is that somebody is setting up Facebook accounts with nonexistent (or hired) attractive women, and sending out large numbers of friend requests to guys with the hope that many will accept the request. (For all I know, similar requests, with attractive guys, are being sent to women.) Once you accept their friend request, they gain access to a lot of information about you, to be used for who knows what purpose. And once you've accepted the friend request, they get access to all your friends, so they can send these requests to all your friends, and the page will note that the requestee has a friend in common, increasing the chance the requestee will accept the request.

Has anybody else out there gotten similar requests recently? Anybody heard anything about a scam of this sort? Readers, be forewarned!

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