Fake Facebook Friends Could Steal Personal Info, Experts Say

| by Nik Bonopartis
A Facebook booth at a 2010 tech convention in LondonA Facebook booth at a 2010 tech convention in London

Fake Facebook friends may make you seem more popular, but the people behind those accounts could be phishing for personal information.

That's the gist of the warning security experts and the Better Business Bureau have issued to users of the popular social media platform, as scammers become more adept at social engineering techniques to pry personal data from potential victims.

Scammers can easily pick up personal information, such as full names, addresses, birthdays and phone numbers if they're allowed into a user's social circle online, University of South Florida information systems professor Grandon Gill told WTSP10 in Tampa Bay. They can also target potential victims by their occupation.

"For example, if there happens to be someone from the military in these networks, they might be able to start to pick up information from their profile that would identify for example who they are, where they are," Gill said.

Scammers don't need any technical know-how or special software to "clone" existing Facebook profiles, the Better Business Bureau warns, and by impersonating a trusted friend or realtive, they can easily get users to divulge personal information or click on links that install malware.

With detailed personal information, scammers can open credit cards in the names of their victims, and completely hijack the identities of people they target, the BBB noted.

Facebook users can protect themselves by taking a few steps:

- Always double check friend requests. Make sure you know the person making the request, and verify that it's their account, not a clone. Clones can be spotted because they assume the identity of people already on your friend list.

- Don't blindly trust links and recommendations from Facebook friends. Links can lead you to websites that install malware on your computer, often without you knowing.

- Keep an eye out for poor grammar and spelling mistakes. Scammers often originate in other countries, and aren't adept at faking colloquial English, especially in written form.

- Tell your friends if you've spotted a suspicious account. If one of your friends starts posting spam and work from home ads, it's a good bet their account has been compromised.

Finally, users can report fake accounts to Facebook by visiting the social media platform's Help Center.

Sources: Better Business Bureau, / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons