Shadow Profiles on Facebook, Part 1

Strangers at the door

As a website content manager, blogger, and administrator for social media and Facebook groups, I am constantly having to evaluate whether to accept or delete the many individual requests from people around the world and the nation who want to join these groups or who want to friend me personally. Sometimes, these requests from strangers come in waves. For example, I might get ten requests this week from people who live in Nigeria; next week, maybe ten from somewhere in Central America, or ten the next week from men wearing a US military uniform. Who are these people? Strangers? I have no idea who they are!

FB is a great tool for what it does correctly—connect people in conversation through a joint virtual space, but FB is not a “Friend” to us when we fail to use due diligence in researching the identity of those persons asking to be our friend. What are some tips in this regard to help the people that may not be social-media savvy enough to protect themselves and their virtual friends on Facebook?

If you give someone access to your Facebook page, it is like opening the doors of the entryway of your house. If someone looks suspicious through your door’s peephole, you are not likely to let them in. You can be tricked when someone gets past your doorway defenses by convincing you that they are not suspicious. Each of us has the responsibility to at least try to verify the identity of those people or “Friends” whom we let past our doors.

 Entry points 

There are lots of ways we let people into our Facebook houses. We “click through” ads or  we “like” a promoted page. We also give access to our “houses” by posting on our own FB pages. When we share a post, it is like we are accompanying it through the door of our friend’s houses, right alongside our own reputation for accuracy and truth. Not everyone sees this as a fact, but it is true. A shared post that looks good and is slickly produced doesn’t seem to have to merit that same value for truth as we appreciate in its value for coolness. However, a good looking post might not be true or worth the time it takes to share it. We certainly should not share anything, without checking where it came from; we might be letting past our doors–and past our friends’ doors–a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you are interested in finding out more about what I might mean with that, check out this blog, “Quizzing the Quizzes, Part 1 & Part 2” at

Verify as best you can

Specifically, for people that don’t know this already, if someone asks to friend you, you should verify who they are as best you can. I am not suggesting that you hire a private eye or do a background check on everyone who asks to “Friend” you, anymore than you do that for the people that you let in your entry hall. Rather, I am suggesting that you do the simple things that you can easily do to check if they are the person that they say they are. Someone may still get past your efforts, which is why you don’t put your personal or financial details online—just in case someone has gotten onto your friend’s list who is not who they are supposed to be.

This is the reason that you don’t want to share—or let someone else share—your cool pictures from Aruba while you are still laying on the beach, because you don’t know who will see it and decide to check out your empty house before you return. If you have a fantastic, world-class security system that can handle anything, then fine, go ahead and post away while you are gone. For most of us, however, waiting until you get back is soon enough to post those fun pics.

Easy ways to vet a profile

So, what are some easy things a person can do to vet the friend requests received on Facebook and prevent hacking your friend’s and your own profile? A big way that profiles are “hacked” is when legitimate pictures and details from real profile pages are poached off a real page (copied and/or downloaded) and then used to set up shadow profiles of legitimate users; the scammers then send out friend requests from that shadow profile to that original and real person’s friends, in order to get the person’s friends to also “friend” the shadow profile. Our memories don’t always register that we are already so-and-so’s friend when we glance at these shadow requests; often, we just click without thinking or doing any checks about the validity of the request. I have done it myself several times. However, whenever you receive a Friend request, whether it is from Facebook or on Facebook Messenger, the first thing you should do is to click through the requester’s name to look at that profile before you add them to your own friend’s list. If you think that you are friends already, chances are, you are friends already.

These few tips should become a natural part of our Facebook home life; many users already do all these things and more, but some do not. Nothing will guarantee that you will be protected from scammers who invade your Facebook house intending to gain your confidence and to gain your contact list and their info. However, becoming a better citizen of the Facebook community will help you be a better friend to your “Friends” and to your self. Check out my next post, “Shadow Profiles on Facebook, Part 2.”