If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen something like this lately:
Someone is posing as Jane Alvarez on Facebook. If you get a friend request from her, don’t accept. It’s a fake!
If I could find a way to get a dollar every time I’ve seen this lately, I could hire a peon to type blog posts for me. It’s an epidemic. Someone steals your name and profile picture, and then sends friend requests to all of your existing friends. Your existing friends see that friend request, and they accept, because they know and like you. Then the scammer sends them a direct message asking them for money, or asking them to click on some sketchy website, or whatever. It’s a problem, and it’s really creepy when it happens to you.
Here’s the thing, though: Crooks can take your photo and your name, but they’ll only do so if they can send friend requests to all of your friends. If your friend list isn’t available, you’re useless to them, because they need to be able to contact people who trust you. That means hiding your friend list so it can’t be seen by strangers is your best (and easiest) defense against this type of scam. There’s really no good reason to have your friends list available to the public anyway. It’s good for scammers, but it does nothing for you.
Here’s how to hide your Facebook friend list:
Go to your own profile page. Right under your cover photo, you’ll see links to About, Photos, and Friends. Click Friends.
On the far right, you’ll see a little pencil. Click it. That will give you a link to Edit Privacy. Click that too.
You’ll get a pop-up window. The first option will be about who can see your Friends list. You can click the drop-down menu on the left to choose Public, Friends, or Only Me. Mine is set to Friends, because I’m fine with my friends being able to see each other (that way my genealogy friends, HR friends, real-life friends and family, and old classmates can find and connect with each other). If you really want to be stealth, you can set it to Only Me. If it’s set to Public, though, anyone can see it. That makes you a target for scammers.
That’s all you have to do. Problem solved!
Photo by Don Hankins