Facebook imposter posing as US Attorney to bilk victims
SEATTLE -- A Facebook imposter is impersonating US Attorney Jenny Durkan, and Durkan said they're doing it to scam people out of money.
A spokeswoman for the US Attorney's office says the Secret Service is saying six Facebook accounts claiming to be Durkan have been taken down. But as of Tuesday evening at least one account was still active.
"I actually have some friends text me saying hey welcome back to Facebook and I said its not me" says Durkan. "I don't have a Facebook page".
Impersonating is nothing new to Facebook. The social media site has been dealing with false accounts since it's inception, and it has online report forms victims can fill out to prompt an investigation.
Durkan's impersonator is taking matters a step further.
The federal prosecutor says the imposter is communicating with people who like her page and then coaxing them into what some call the Nigerian letter scam.
"Send us a little money and we'll send you more money back," Durkan said, referring to the scam. "They take people in gradually little by little and unfortunately people fall for it and give them money."
The Secret Service has collected evidence alleging the imposter convinced one victim to send money because the victim thought he was doing an online chat with Durkan herself.
"That person turned around and committed fraud and was able to bilk the man out of money," Durkan said. She would not reveal the amount.
Facebook has a process for victims and others to report imposters. The report is then reviewed by a person at Facebook and decision to take down the account or investigate further is made, according to Matt Steinfeld of Facebook.
Facebook also routinely creates Facebook community pages involving public figures using readily available information from Wikipedia, a crowd source version of an encyclopedia that's not always accurate.
Durkan saw many of real friends had "liked" this community page, as well as the false account. In 2012, Washington passed an electronic impersonation law that gives victims civil grounds to sue the impersonator but it did not make it a criminal offense like similar laws in California and Texas have done.
"You can actually take action against them civilly and sue them for impersonating you only have to show reputation harm," said internet privacy attorney Susan Lyon-Hintz.
It comes down to technology advancing so fast that privacy laws and the constitutional interpretation can't keep up.
"There's some dangers in these laws that can hinder free speech so finding the right balance is tricky for legislators," Lyon-Hintz said.
The imposter has not been found. In the meantime, Durkan has warning for all her friends and others: Don't be duped.
"This is not the real Jenny Durkan who's on facebook asking them for money. It's not me," Durkan said.