Bamboozle Alert! Fake Facebook Friend Request Scams to Avoid

You get a Facebook friend request notification.

Who could it be? An old friend? A potential client? Maybe even a fan? It’s always great to connect with a fan. You attempt to humble yourself before clicking it. You might be a quasi-celebrity in your head but you shouldn’t let it get the best of you. Look what happened to Kanye.

Your heart rate increases slightly as you open the little red box to find a user with a grainy Myspace era profile picture and no mutual friends. Another fake Facebook friend request from a spam account.

Thousands of people are bamboozled with these spam friend requests every day. Although we might not collapse to our knees and cry out at the heavens in theatrical fashion, the question is the same: “Why me?”

Some get upwards of 20 requests a day, others might get a handful over a month. The requests seem to happen indiscriminately. Spam friend requests are rated E for everybody. 

Follow along as we venture into the dark side of Facebook.

What Are They?

Spam friend requests could be either bots or people. Although Facebook is getting better at catching bot activity, it’s much harder to stop the organic spammers. These spam accounts have different purposes and can reach you in a variety of ways.

The Fake Facebook Friend Request Trojan Horse

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All it takes is one friend with a weak post privacy setting to fall for the fake friend request and the portal to their entire network is open. If a friend has their post privacy set to the “Friends of friends” option, then the phantom account has access to pictures, posts, and friend lists on their account.

The friend request acceptance rate increases exponentially with each new mutual friend. These phantoms will then go through entire friend lists firing at will. Let’s call this “Trickle Down Friend Requests”

They can also crawl through Facebook pages you have liked or places you have checked in and find you that way.

Why Are These Fake Facebook Friend Request Bots so Hot?

Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery

“Sex sells” was coined by probably an unattractive guy in advertising and still holds true. Guys are easy prey. If an account has a series of similar pictures of an individual attractive girl, a shared hometown, and a few mutual friends it’s pretty much a done deal for the untrained male Facebook brain.

Let’s pause and do some live-action.

As I finished up that last paragraph, I got a friend request from this account. Let’s investigate:

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  1. Her 20 friends are all males in a single geographic area.
  2. The claim “me this woman” sounds like Jane explaining language to Tarzan.
  3. “100% and 100% are single ” is this a “60% of the time it works every time” sort of thing?
  4. “looking for single men in dating” In dating? Sounds like a aisle section in Target where they keep people scared of being alone.
  5. “also s3xxs” S3xxs looks like an Algebra expression that needs to be simplified.

Nice try, Zorka.

This fake Facebook friend request happened as I was writing. Coincidence, or are they on to me? Let’s wrap this up before I wake up in the bottom of a river. 

“One Bot, Two Bot, Red Bot, Blue Bot, Old Bot, New Bot” – Dr. Seuss, SEO pioneer & thought leader.

Bots have different purposes. I have outlined several of their possible functionalities, but this list isn’t completely comprehensive. The account must meet one of these criteria: target a certain demographic, not engage in a personal or human manner, have a clear ulterior motive, and operate in some sort of scaleable pattern whether automated or not.

The Snake Oil Salesman: Whether it’s discount Ray Bans, Jordan Heels, or “also s3xxs” these are pretty straightforward. This is the automated telemarketer of our generation.

Threat level: 2 poop emojis. 💩💩

The Comic Book Villain: This bot wants to unleash a horde of malware and viruses through links via messages. This is the stranger in the white van that says “free candy” on it of social media.

Threat level: Aids Monkey 😷🐒

The Information Shoplifter: If you have personal information like your email, phone number, or other means to contact you, these fake accounts can scrape them for whatever sketchy purpose, usually money oriented. Imagine Ocean’s 11 but with a cast of 11 Tyler Perry characters. This is that.

Threat level: 1:30 AM “You up?” Text.

The Cult Leader: These fake personas are usually tied to some sort of brand. Either the true owner doesn’t want to be associated with the brand, or it makes logistical things like Facebook page management easier. These accounts add a bunch of people, and then share posts from pages or external sites with the aim of getting more exposure. With more friends, each paid Facebook post gets a higher organic reach when shared, lowering the cost per action of Facebook ads. This is the friend who constantly posts self-gratifying pictures on Instagram and Facebook. Pretty harmless, but annoying.

Threat level:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Puppet Master:. These accounts may seem dormant on Facebook, but boy, are they busy. Yelp, Instagram, Tinder, you name it, we can integrate our Facebook to nearly everything. These accounts are ploys to game a platform’s algorithm. How?

Entire boutique SEO firms (companies that help their clients rank higher in search engines) incorporate fake accounts to review their clients on Yelp, Facebook, etc to boost their rankings. Same with e-commerce reviews. Same with blog traffic and comments.

Ever see an ad for thousands of Instagram likes for $10 or Instagram growth companies? Bots. That “Nice one!” comment on your selfie? Bots.

People create dozens of fake Tinder profiles of attractive girls so other male users waste their swipes and don’t get matched. This makes their experience significantly worse and these users are more likely to quit the app altogether. Meanwhile, the bot master skillfully ignores his breathtaking scarecrows and has a higher success rate with the more realistic girls. Welcome to the Matrix. This is actually kind of hilarious.

Threat level:  Metallica 2010-Present

Conclusion:

Like most marketing tactics, these bots themselves are being optimized for conversion. The accounts will start to look more realistic, but fake Facebook friend request ultimately aren’t much of a threat if you know how to spot them. With all the politically charged posts and self-promotional statuses, I’m not sure we can handle throwing malware links and scams in the mix as well.

Some quick takeaways:

  1. Don’t accept a fake Facebook friend request.
  2. If you click on sketchy links from people you don’t know, you’re gonna have a bad time.
  3. Don’t buy discount fake Ray Bans or Jordan heels (As impressive as it is, if you dunk in 6 inch heels it doesn’t count.)
  4. If someone created a fake account with your pictures, congratulations, this is fame bro. Report the account to Facebook and pray you don’t get put in a “shoot the evil twin” situation.
  5. Manage your Facebook privacy settings to restrict bots from finding you.