Last week, when the friends of family of Gulfport Chief of Police, Robert Vincent, received messages from what appeared to be his new Facebook account, a few eyebrows were raised.
When the account then asked for donations, and included a link where account holders could send funds to a charity that claimed to send money to aid people with disabilities, it was clear this wasn’t Vincent.
“I got about a dozen notifications asking me about this,” said Vincent. “This person stole my profile picture and identified people as my friends, and began messaging them.”
On November 14, the Gulfport Florida Police Department Facebook page posted a status that read, “Someone has apparently created a fake profile using Chief Vincent’s name and photo and is sending messages requesting recipients to click a link to send money to help the disabled. If you receive such a message, ignore it.”
“A few people reported it to the police,” said Vincent. “I’ve made it so my Facebook profile is not public anymore.”
According to the police chief, the mystery account was not really an account, but a “messenger” account that is not actually linked to a profile.
The Facebook Help Center states, “If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can sign up for Messenger with your mobile phone number.”
“It would be very difficult to pursue this with no cut and dry proof that the money didn’t actually go to charity, and there would have to be a victim here,” said Vincent. “It would not be in our authority, we’re talking about a federal offense.”
Vincent states that as far as he knows, no one sent money to the fraud account and the unknown user has stopped sending solicitation attempts.