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Jim Hawkins: Beware Facebook friend request scams

Jim Hawkins • Updated Jun 19, 2017 at 2:45 PM

“I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making a few more.” 

– Anonymous comment on Facebook

Facebook users are seeing an increasing number of friend requests from scammers. 

Q. What is a Facebook friend request scam?

Scammers can impersonate a Facebook user by setting up a fake account using the real Facebook user’s name and a couple of photos from the authentic user’s page.

The scammer sends a friend request from the fake Facebook page to the friends of the real user.

Q. Why do Facebook scammers create fake accounts?

Once you accept a “new” friend invitation that seems to be from an existing friend, then the criminal scammer has access to your list of friends and your identity information, for use in a variety of fraudulent schemes.

Q. What is the best way to deal with these fake Facebook scammers?

The Better Business Bureau and others recommend:

• Reduce the risk of identity theft. 

At the top right corner of your Facebook page, click on the downward-facing triangle, then click on “Settings” and then “Privacy.” 

You’ll see three sections: “Who can see my stuff?” “Who can contact me?” “Who can look me up?” There you can manage your privacy.

• Double-check friend requests.

Don’t automatically click “Confirm” for new requests. Scan your list of current friends. If any friend shows up twice, the newer account is likely a scam.

• Don’t blindly trust friends’ recommendations.

Just because a link or video is shared by a friend doesn’t mean that it’s safe to click. It could contain a virus or malware that could infect your computer or smartphone.

• Report fake accounts to Facebook.

Imposter accounts aren’t allowed on Facebook. To report a fake account:

• Go to the impostor’s profile.

• Click “…” on the cover photo and select “Report.”

• Follow the on-screen instructions. Facebook staff will review and close reported fake friend pages. 

James B. “Jim” Hawkins is a Tennessee general practice and public interest law attorney. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention.  Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest future column topics, call 615-452-9200.

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