Fake Facebook account poses as Pasco sheriff

By Sarah Blazonis, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2018, 2:06 PM EST

According to Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, Facebook has shut down a profile that claimed to be his and solicited money from followers.

  • Sheriff's Office tipped about page asking donations for K-9 Association
  • PCSO since posted to social media it would NEVER solicit donations that way
  • Sheriff Nocco: "That's a trust factor."

“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.”

Nocco said his office got a tip that the page was asking for money for the K-9 association – something PCSO told Facebook and Twitter followers it would never do in a message posted this weekend. There don’t appear to be any victims at this time.

“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.

Facebook does have some safeguards against fake accounts. For instance, if you enter the name “Jane Doe” when starting a new profile, a message from the site will tell you it asks users to use their real names.

Users also have to enter a phone number or e-mail address to get started.

Terry Schorn, department chair of Rasmussen College’s School of Technology, said that doesn’t catch all of the fakes.

“That is the sad thing about modern social media applications. They do very little to weed out those rogue accounts," Schorn said via an email statement. "Facebook relies heavily on existing users turning in suspect accounts. Bots, sock puppets, and trolls are flooding social media with fake accounts constantly."

In addition, finding those behind the accounts isn’t always simple.

“We have to get search warrants, we have to work with companies such as Facebook and Twitter and those type of companies to get that information,” Nocco said.

The sheriff said Facebook has been helpful in the ongoing criminal investigation. He also said he’d be in favor of tougher penalties for those convicted of such white collar crimes.

“Maybe they get six months’ probation, but the victim has years and years to build back their identity or build back funds they’ve lost,” he said of current punishments for offenders.

Nocco said he expects agencies like his will see an increase in these scams in coming years because technology is making it easier for criminals to do so. He said the best way for people to make a donation to the Sheriff’s Office is to reach out directly.

Although the sheriff’s office wasn’t immediately aware of any victims, those who may be out there can call the PCSO tip line at 1-800-706-2488.