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Facebook users can also find themselves directed to bogus online retailers hoping to pick up credit card details.Inadvertently befriending a fake account also unlocks access to personal tidbits that may seem innocuous but amount to a treasure trove for hackers seeking access to personal Web sites like bank accounts."These days the only way tell if a Facebook friend request came from someone you actually know is to ring them up and say, 'Hey, did you send me a Facebook friend request?'" The problem is a particularly thorny one for Facebook as the company attempts to encourage its users to share more liberally with one another and with the web at large.They frequently hint at passwords and usernames, as well as the answers to common security questions.According to security experts, these nefarious friends are overseen by a diffuse, elusive network of individuals located all over the world.Back in a more innocent age, a Facebook friend bore at least some resemblance to an actual friend: They were real people with real identities with whom one had some connection in real life.

Posting photos, updates and real-time data on one's whereabouts becomes far less appealing when the information runs the risk of being used by hackers."Very often, these are executed by loose networks of folks who specialize in their particular niche and collaborate to attack, then make money off of the account," said Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum."They know each other from spammer IRC [Internet relay chat] channels where they brag about exploits and alliances.At the same time however, numerous users have complained on Twitter, Quora and even Facebook itself that they have experienced an uptick in friend requests from fake accounts in the past few months.Though Facebook would not confirm whether the number of profiles belonging to spammers had increased recently, Simon Axten, a member of the social network's public-policy group, said, "There are always fluctuations as people respond to the defenses we've built." The reported rise in dubious profiles may be an inevitable product of Facebook's growing popularity.

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