Consider this scenario: You're on Facebook (FB), and you receive two friend requests, both from people you don't know. With one person, you have no mutual friends, and with the other, you have some. Do you accept either request? Both? Just the one who shares your friends?
Scammers are banking on the likelihood you'll accept the request if you have mutual friends -- the more, the better -- even if you have no clue who the requester is. From there, they'll have access to everything you share with friends, and they'll start friending your friends and family to see what they share. All that good stuff helps them reach their ultimate goal: identity theft.
It's called farcing, and a researcher at the University of Buffalo published a study on it in an academic journal called Information Systems Frontier, saying these scams spread quickly and widely, as the scammer gathers friends and appears more legitimate.
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