If you know Facebook, you know those "friend requests" that pop up now and again from people you've never met. They might seem like gestures of goodwill, but accepting one could be very dangerous.
Teenagers are particularly susceptible to adding online friends they don't know. Many say it's just something fun and different. Some may also seek to increase their "friend counts" to compete in social networking's popularity contest.
That vulnerability is keeping law enforcement everywhere way too busy these days, chasing down online predators before they can strike.
A recent survey shows that 50 million kids from ages 13 through 17 average about 130 so-called online "friends" each. But 54 percent of those admit they don't know all of their friends personally.
Investigators say that the biggest problem with that is that all too often, an older adult will pose as a youngster, picture and everything, to prey on adolescents. All they have to do is get the right response – the confirmation of a Facebook friend request – and they're in.
"To these people, this is a great opportunity to do some research," explains Sheriff John O'Brien. "They appear to know you, but they've just gotten all the information from [what you've posted on] Facebook. You've opened the door. And when it's open, it's hard to close."
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