You're browsing your favorite social network, and suddenly you get a friend request from someone you don't think you know. Do you accept it?
Here are four reasons why you shouldn't accept unusual friend requests.
First, people use fake friend requests to dig up dirt on people. These might include private investigators, divorce lawyers, or a frenemy who wants to cause you harm.
Second, the friend request might be from a stalker who is interested in learning more about your preferences and habits.
Third, the friend request might be a spy interested in corporate espionage. Knowing that you are, for example, going to a certain city, or seeing that you have posted about a new product might help your competition piece together parts of your organization's strategy.
Fourth, the requestor might be a spammer who is just interested in sending annoying ads your way.
People who send fake friend requests generally use two strategies. The first is to use the picture of a good-looking person. You'd be surprised at the number of men who are willing to friend a woman just on the basis of an attractive photo. (Actually, you're probably not surprised at all.)
The second strategy is to friend that person's friends first, focusing on people who have lots of friends. Basically, people who have lots of friends are more likely to accept friend requests. So, when the intended victim gets the fake friend request, he'll see that they have 20 friends in common, making him more likely to accept the friend request.
The simplest thing you can do to protect yourself is to never accept a friend request from someone you have not met in person.