About four days ago, Rahul Katakey, superintendent of police in Pali, Rajasthan alerted his Facebook contacts through the following message: “Somebody has made a fake id in my name. Please ignore. This is my only Facebook id. I will also be taking action against the person who created this id.”
Around a week ago, Sushil Kumar, superintendent of police in Lakhisarai, Bihar posted something similar on his Facebook wall. “Someone has created a fake profile in my name and asking money from people via messenger. Please don’t fall for it. It’s a fraud account. An FIR is being registered and necessary lawful action will be taken,” Kumar wrote.
Ranjan Sharma, DCP in the Mumbai traffic branch who is now posted in state CID also wrote someone created his fake account on Facebook using his photo during the same period. “He/she is asking for some money. Please don’t give any money. I am taking legal action,” he added.
Imposters and hackers on social media giant Facebook have found a new profile to impersonate or probably even hack into, to lend credibility to their tactics for financial fraud.
Over the past few weeks, IPS officials from states such as Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Kerala have complained of their profiles getting duplicated on Facebook and their contacts being sent requests for financial assistance.
“We got the account blocked immediately and have registered a first information report (FIR). We are waiting to hear from Facebook. There are a couple of other IPS officers who have reported such incidents. After my incident there was another incident with a fellow IPS officer from Rajasthan whose account was impersonated and people started asking for money after sending friend requests,” said Katakey and added that the Rs 20,000 sought in his name were paltry in nature.
“Maybe if they had asked for more money in my name people might have paid and wouldn’t have realised it’s an impersonated account. People might have paid the money considering the profile and the nature of our job,” he added.
Cyber security expert Gautam Kumawat, who has trained various state police departments on cyber security and cyber crime said IPS and law enforcement officials have increasingly complained of such instances of impersonation of late.
“There is a greater chance of someone coughing up money if it’s an influential profile like theirs. It is hard to believe their accounts could get impersonated. Such cases mostly crop up on Facebook,” said Kumawat.
Facebook did not respond to an email seeking comments till the time of going to press.
“We have lodged an FIR and have also sought details from Facebook. Most of the people don’t fall for this, but some could,” said Kumar from Lakhisarai.
Rahul Tyagi, co-founder at enterprise cyber security firm Lucideus said a couple of IPS officials reached out to him recently for assistance on not just impersonated accounts but other financial fraud scams.
“Impersonation cases are mostly designed and devised to get money through mobile wallets. It’s not just impersonation, but they also try to hack into accounts. This happens with other high profile officials as well. I have been engaged in training sessions personally with IPS officials and have seen a lot of cases coming to me where they have said their account has been compromised,” he added.
Yashasvi Yadav, special inspector general of police, Maharashtra Cyber Department said financial frauds are happening at an unprecedented scale. “We have written to Facebook but such accounts keep on mushrooming. There is an army of cyber criminals that is doing this as a regular job. It could be a phishing attack, ransomware or even credit card scamming,” he added.