Home > Identity Theft > The Scary Way a Friend Request Can Lead to Identity Theft

Comments 0 Comments

As millions of users log into Facebook every day and send requests to join others’ social media networks, there are some friends that will quickly turn out to be enemies. A growing trend among cybercriminals is called farcing — or when strangers send friend requests on social media to steal information for fraud or identity theft. Cybercriminals are exploiting the popularity of social media sites to worm themselves into inner social circles. Once a cybercriminal has managed to gain access to an individual’s network of friends and family, he or she can then become friends with others to pilfer their information, according to study by the University of Buffalo.

With the personal information social media users put out on their profiles and in status updates, identity thieves could collect this data for fraudulent purpose while disguising themselves as legitimate users.

Arun Vishwanath, associate professor of communication at the University of Buffalo, conducted the study that involved making fake Facebook profiles. He found that one in five social media users approved the fake friend requests. One of the reasons why social media users allowed them to be friends was due to their photos or list of contacts as Facebook can show how many mutual friends users have. However, Vishwanath said those who fell for the ruse could be fooled because cybercriminals performing farcing attacks often scope out other victims from available friends’ lists.

Teens Especially Vulnerable

The impact of these farcing attacks may become worse as users are increasingly sharing sensitive information — from where they work to where they live — with their friends. Teens may be especially vulnerable to farcing attacks, as they may not protect their information as seriously as other users, according to a study by Pew Research Internet Project. Teens and children are often victims of identity theft because they have clean credit histories, and social media networks could provide another easy avenue for identity thieves to steal their information.

The Pew study showed teens are sharing more information about themselves on their social media networks compared to past years. More than 7 in 10 teens said they listed their school name and 53% said they posted their email address. In addition to posting these private details, 82% said they made their date of birth available, which is one key piece of information that could be exploited by identity thieves.

As oversharing becomes a problem on social media sites, Vishwanath warns users to be careful about who they allow to join their circle of friends.

Protecting the personal information you share online is vital to keeping your identity safe. An identity thief can use your information to open new accounts in your name, which can do massive damage to your credit. Your best line of defense is to monitor your financial accounts regularly. It’s smart to pull your credit reports often (you can get one free annual report from each of the three major credit bureaus). Also, you can check two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com. Any large, unexpected change in your credit scores could signal identity theft, and you should pull your credit reports to confirm.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: Hemera

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team