A mother who lives in Toronto’s east end is sounding the alarm after someone used her Facebook page to request photos of teenage girls in “tight-fitting clothing and in bras.”
For the last four years, Kerry-Ann has been a member of a Facebook group that swaps and sells children’s clothing.
On Tuesday of this week, she started receiving strange messages in the Beaches Hip Hop Mom Buy and Sell Facebook group.
Somebody is out there trying to lure little kids.
“Someone sent me a screen shot. They were in correspondence with somebody and they were also requesting photos of their daughter and photos of them in tight-fitting clothing and in bras.” Kerry-Ann told CBC Toronto.
“And that’s where the red flag went off. I said, ‘I have to report this.”‘
CBC News has agreed not to use Kerry-Ann’s surname because she has concerns for her safety.
Kerry-Ann has fallen victim to Facebook cloning — a technique in which scammers create a fake page by using images and other information stolen from a targeted user’s profile.
The scammers may be able to create a profile that — at least at first glance — looks very much like the target’s genuine page, especially if the victim has all or some of his or her profile material set so anyone on Facebook can view it.
Kerry-Ann told CBC Toronto that based on the screen shots she had seen; someone was targeting families with daughters between the ages of 12 and 18.
“They’re interested in trying out some clothing and in exchange for you sending your measurements and what not they would send you the clothing and you would get to keep it for free,” Kerry-Ann said.
“When the families were redirected to an application form that was sent, they filled out the form and then actually these families were in contact with someone via email,” she added.
That “someone,” Kerry-Ann said, was requesting videos of their children.
‘I was scared, upset and disgusted’
Kerry-Ann — a teacher and mother of a teenage daughter — said she was “disgusted” when she discovered the scam.
“I was really upset, to be quite honest,” she said.
“It’s really scary. Someone took my account and if you had clicked the post from this person it would appear to have been me. Everything that was on my personal page was there … Somebody is out there trying to lure little kids and their families into doing whatever they are going to do with these photos,” Kerry-Ann added.
“I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a teacher, and I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone, so I had to do the right thing right away.”
Police ‘actively investigating’
Kerry-Ann has since reported the matter to the Toronto police and also to Facebook.
She said Facebook has been in touch with her and told her to change her password.
Toronto police, meanwhile, told CBC News that the case was reported on Wednesday and they are “actively investigating.”
Kerry-Ann said she doesn’t know the exact number of people who were lured into sending images of their children, but she said several people have contacted her.
She said the entire episode has reinforced the point that if you see something on social media “and it seems a little bit sketchy, then the right thing to do is to contact the person and to find out before going forward.”
“You see these things outside on the news and around you but you never actually tune in as closely as I have right now until it actually happens to you,” she said.
It is difficult to entirely eliminate the risk of having your account cloned, Facebook warns. But the social media platform says you can significantly lessen the possibility by using privacy settings that hide as much of your information as possible from strangers.