A strange new trend has bubbled up on Facebook lately that has users receiving strange friend requests from people all over the world, including the Middle East. What could be behind this sudden spate of odd requests? One expert believes that it’s likely an identity theft scam.
University of South Florida information systems professor Brandon Gill said that people should be cautious when accepting any request on Facebook, because opening up your profile to a stranger leaves you vulnerable to identity theft.
“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.
Indeed, this kind of random friend-adding is a pretty common tactic for cybercriminals; the Better Business Bureau has spoken out specifically about the problem.
“Facebook is an easy way for scammers to reach networks of people, and in this case, under the guise of someone they trust,” it said. “If you happen to add a scammer, they have access to information that could lead to identity theft or other fraudulent activity. In this case, it seems like the ‘fake friend’ was after money (aren’t they all, really?) through a loan scam.”
Thankfully, these scams are generally easy to see through. If you’re getting requests from people you don’t know in far-flung corners of the world, it’s best to just decline the invite and avoid any potential privacy headaches.