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I got a message from someone I've never met before, or even heard of, from Nigeria. He wants to learn to write Java code and is asking me if I can recommend any websites or e-books to help him. He seems legitimate and sincere. I don't hide my web presence, so there are any number of ways he could have found me as a programmer. I'm considering replying.

However, with scams of Nigeria past in mind, I just want to double check: is there any security risk to replying to a Facebook message? Anything dangerous about this?

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Facebook doesn't seem like a proper channel for communications about professional consultancy and suggestions. If you want to still reply, you can at least check the identity of him. – Halil Özgür Feb 20 '11 at 17:18
up vote 52 down vote accepted

If you reply to a message then you give them "friend" access to your profile for one month.

Concerning Nigerian scammers then that could lead to identity theft or other website accounts being hacked using your personal information (mother's maiden name, etc.).

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Good to know. Here's a makeuseof.com article on how to social engineer your way into being able to view someones facebook profile. – Andris Feb 19 '11 at 21:50
That sounds like a ridiculous policy (although admittedly Facebook has had a few of those), citation needed. – Sverre Rabbelier Feb 20 '11 at 12:11
Facebook=spam magnet. Each evolution of Facebook has been to further erode your privacy to others, increasing identity theft. It's always enabled by default, and you have to opt out after each release. That's why Fb is "$50b". Business mine your data. This link backs it up mattmckeon.com/facebook-privacy – giulio Feb 20 '11 at 22:08
Where do they state that you give a person friend access for a month if you reply? – Eight Days of Malaise Feb 21 '11 at 2:15
My mistake, I was only half right. It looks like they've throttled back the information you can access after you respond to a message. The answer is in the article linked in the first comment on makeuseof.com: "Well, Facebook’s help section states that anyone who you add as a friend or send a message to '...will have temporary access to view a small portion of your profile. They will see Basic Info, Personal Info, Work Info, Education Info and Friends.'" Digging up information on facebook's help was a challenge, but with a test using a fake profile that seemed to be how it still works. – Kenneth Posey Feb 21 '11 at 3:56

General Rule: Never, ever respond to an unsolicited message (Facebook, e-mail, whatever).

The best possible outcome is to confirm that they have contacted a valid address, opening the door for more requests and Spam.

That's why you don't choose the "unsubscribe" links when you get Spam.

Mark it as Spam, and move on.

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