Spam on Facebook: Social Engineering 101, but the girls are pretty!

There I was, lurking on Facebook with my cousins last weekend…and in came a friend request. This was no ordinary friend request. No Sir! This was an attractive looking woman (let’s call her N_U) who had gone to my high school the year after I graduated. My friends seemed to know her (5 common friends,  I’m told), and I vaguely remembered her name..maybe a friend’s younger sister? Not accepting the friend request was out of question…the evidence was too compelling! I accepted meekly, leaving a note to myself to ask her if she really knew me from school. Fat chance!

Something about N_U didn’t seem right. She seemed too perfect. None of my other school friends had gone to a photo studio to have model-quality photos taken for Facebook. Then, of course, there was the issue of her academic qualifications. She seemed to have taken 6 years from the time she had graduated from school until she finished college. That means she took six years to finish a 3 year degree? Amit and I both went to the same high school, and the school was known more for it’s high academic standards than for the enduring beauty of it’s students. This friend of mine also seemed to have been an air-hostess in Air Sahara until 2004, when she settled into marriage at Lucknow and seemed to have continued to visit the photo studio to have her photos taken alone. Her profile was created 3 weeks ago, and she already had 400+ friends, adding friends at the rate of 30 a day. Wow- she seems to have been more popular at school than I imagined, or remembered!

I couldn’t put my finger on the problem- were the photos fake, was the profile unreal, am I losing my memory, and why did my friends know her and I didn’t?

Watching N_U’s Facebook feed made things a lot more interesting! She was a fan of a weight loss Facebook site- “Inches Off”. She had interesting political views, and had been posting status messages about some recent political developments. Some of these status feeds were commented on by a friend called “Hassan”, who had also commented on one of her photos saying that she looks “very pretty” in one photo. Other posts were basically reposts of articles on Inches Off, the weight loss fan page. Curious indeed.

Follow the white rabbit. So, I follow the link to this friend of my friend. Hassan seemed to be the guy behind the “Inches Off” fan page, and seemed also to have worked in the Sahara India group. Fair enough- that’s where they got to know each other, I suppose. What struck me, however, was that this guy seemed to be what was known colloquially in high school as a “chick magnet”. He seemed to have many perfect women amongst his friends (see below). I guess one could do worse in life than being a sales guy for a weight loss product!

Each of these friends-of-friend-of-N_U seemed to have similar profiles as her! They all seemed to have gone to prominent schools in North India (Spring Dales, Apeejay, Modern School), and had taken 5-7 years to finish graduation, were fans of “Inches Off”, had opened their profiles recently, and had 400-2000 friends.

Looking at the girls’ profiles, and looping back to friend-of-N_U’s profile, I attained Realization.

On the internet, no one knows if you’re a dude pretending to be a chick.

Here it is…your Moment of Zen!

About Gaurav Rastogi
Gaurav Rastogi is a writer and a business-exec living in the San Francisco bay area. His other blog is a personal philosophy blog at

2 Responses to Spam on Facebook: Social Engineering 101, but the girls are pretty!

  1. amtgrg says:

    Ha ha – yeah this scam has been around for sometime – and I think I got the same invite you got (same school). A variation of this is of a famous cricketer inviting you – I got one from Sadanand Vishwanath. The real danger of facebook fakes is that once u get “friendly” those guys have access to a lot of personal information – and I’m sure they can figure a way to use it.

    On a related note, this from seth godoin’s blog:

    Cannibalism and spam

    So, these two cannibals are eating a clown, and one says to the other, “does this taste funny to you?”

    We don’t often have conversations about cannibalism. We don’t trade recipes or talk about health issues. That’s because it’s off the table, not permitted, inconceivable.

    Marketers should feel the same way about spamming people. Spamming them by email, by text or yes, by calling their cell phones with a robot, repeatedly, just because it’s cheap and because they can.


  2. Pingback: Facebook spam profiles revisited: the plot thickens « Two MBAs, One Blog

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