Why you can't trust 'friends' on Facebook

Facebook is popular and growing -- especially with criminals. Here's why they love it.

Step 4: Now, you're in business. You can ask things of these people that only friends dare ask.

"Let's meet for drinks -- bring your new car!"

"I'm in Nigeria on vacation, got robbed and need $500 to get home!"

"I see you'll be away for the holidays, but I want to send you a Christmas card anyway. What's your home address again?"

Facebook represents a perfect storm of fraud factors. The whole "friend" system creates trust, but the reality of social networks prevents verification that people are who they say they are.

How to meet new people and rob them blind

While some Facebook fraud involves strangers posing as existing "friends," other types involve making new "friends."

I'm being "scammed" right now by someone on Facebook (I won't give you names or other details because, truth be told, I'm only 95% sure it's a scam). Here's how it's going so far.

Some pretty young woman in Indonesia sent me a friend request two weeks ago. I've been researching Facebook scams for this article, so I assumed it was a setup, played along and added her as a friend. Checking her profile, I found exactly what I expected to find: All her friends were male and most closer to my age than hers; her profile was brand-new; photos showed her only with a bunch of other women. (After a fellow male dupe posted on her wall that it was strange she had only male friends, suddenly a couple of female friends emerged -- probably from other fraudulent profiles set up by the scammer.) Every few days, I get a wall post or a chat session.

This profile was almost certainly set up by someone out to steal something, and who has probably set up dozens of such scam profiles all over Facebook. He's (statistically speaking, it's most likely a "he") using flattery to make friends and generate interest, and innocuous chit-chat to establish trust, which will be cashed in later when the real scam hits. The "girl" will eventually need to borrow money or something like that. Or it could just be a way to establish and maintain a "friend" connection so the scammer can target my friends. Who knows? I'm not planning to find out. I've now reported my new "friend" to Facebook, and will unfriend "her" as soon as I submit this column.

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Mike Elgan

Mike Elgan

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