You never know who you're talking to on social media today. What may be surprising is who some of these online impersonators choose to be.
One internet scammer’s attempt to impersonate Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco was extinguished after a tip was sent to the Sheriff's office.
Bay News 9 reports that a Facebook profile of someone posing as Nocco was asking for donations for the K-9 Association. In response, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said it would never solicit donations that way.
“It’s about our image as a Sheriff’s Office,” Nocco said. “The fact that somebody’s out there trying to get funds, donations, that to me is the saddest part.”
No victims have been reported, but the sheriff said the attempted fraud still has an effect.
“A lot of people just say, ‘Oh, it’s a white collar crime, it doesn’t mean anything.’ But, no – that’s a trust factor,” Nocco said.
Dr. Nathan Fisk is an assistant professor of cybersecurity education at the University of South Florida. He says there are ways people can protect themselves from fraudulent accounts like the one that posed as Nocco.
“Fake social media accounts are incredibly common,” Fisk said. “It's been basically since the start of the widespread use of social media that we’ve been seeing these kinds of scams."
“It's obviously much more easy to trick people into giving you money by pretending to be someone else than it is to hack into a site to try to get their personal information,” Fisk said. “The things you want to look for are: do they have an established history? Do they have the friends that you would expect them to have? Do a little bit of digging.”
The key to protecting yourself from a cyber-attack like this one is to make absolutely sure that you are being told the truth.
“It's not that you need to do this every time you get a friend request,” Fisk said. “But, as soon as you get someone who starts asking you for money or other kinds of assistance, then that’s the moment at which you want to be absolutely sure they are who they say they are.”
Fisk suggested that people respond to questionable profiles on other social media platforms.
“Just check in on the phone or another webpage or through email to say ‘Hey, I just want to be sure that you are sending this message because this is a little bit odd for you,’” Fisk recommended.
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has since posted on social media that it would never solicit donations that way. The best way for people to donate to the Sheriff’s Office is to reach out to them directly.