Data mining and friend list poaching has been a problem on Facebook for years. This can range from professional scams down to “real life” fringe friends simply wanting to market to the friends of people they come across. I first became aware of this problem when I noticed some people involved in a multi-level marketing company started friend-requesting my teenage daughters. They were people I had accepted as Facebook friends because part of my niche in the direct sales world is the segment of MLM distributors. I assumed they were interested in my social media training or had met me at an event. Instead what they were doing was friending me to get access to my “list” which they assumed would be people open to learning about a new business opportunity. This is spam and not cool.
The scammers today target your contact lists either through creating fake accounts that mimic real people’s accounts or just create a profile that is believable. Usually these accounts – real or fake – will friend-request someone and when your friend sees they have a mutual friend in you, they’re more likely to accept the request, since they trust your judgement. After all, if you’re their friend, they must be OK! Once they have access to your friends’ Facebook accounts, they will often have access to their contact information, personal information and even birth date and year, if your friends have not set their privacy settings up to protect that information.
So the solution to this is two-fold.
Step by Step Instructions for Hiding Your Friend List
1) Only accept friend requests from either people you know or who have interacted with you in some way online or offline. Maybe they are a member of a group you are in, or commented on your fan page, or they attended an event where you were or otherwise know you. Sometimes you can’t tell just by looking at someone’s profile – message them back and ask what the connection might be. Or do what I do and simply reply that although you appreciate them reaching out to you, you are limiting your personal Facebook and would prefer to connect on your business page, and give them the link. If it is someone who has a legitimate reason for wanting to be your friend they will reply with more information or an explanation. If their only intent was to spam you, or they are a bot, they won’t.
2) Protect your list of Facebook friends so they can’t be poached. By default, on Facebook, everyone can see who everyone else is friends with. But you can edit this setting so that you are the only one who can see your list of friends. Here’s how:
1: Visit your personal Timeline (click your name) and then click on the Friends tab under your cover photo.
2: Click the little pencil icon to the right to be able to edit this section.
3: Once you click the pencil icon, choose, Edit Privacy.
4: Click the little down arrow next to each section that you want to change from Friends to Only Me. Click Close and your changes will be saved.
Have you had any experience with friend poaching or been a victim of data mining? Share your experience or any other solutions you’ve come up with in the comments. For more information on this issue, visit Facecrooks’ article, Fake Facebook Profiles and Pages.