Editor's Note: Each week, Law Officer will post a Social Media Quick Tip that's intended to help law enforcement officers better navigate the world of social media and the Internet.
An old (bad) joke: A citizen calls the police and says she saw a UFO. Police: “How do you know it was a UFO?” Citizen: “It said ‘UFO’ on the aircraft.”
Fake cop profiles are proliferating on Facebook and other social networks. It’s imperative that real law officers don’t friend them. But, like UFOs, the fakes are not labeled as such.
How do you know who's real and who's not?
There are tell-tale signs: There may be a real vagueness in where they work, except to say it’s “in law enforcement.” But there isn’t a secret formula for identifying them. We’ve even seen some who use the photo of a deceased cop as their profile photo.
Why should you care? These phonies aren’t there because they love cops. Observations suggest they want:
1. To get your information and that of your friends/family;
2. To identify real law officers for their databases;
3. To legitimize themselves with others; and
4. To legitimize the shady groups they join.
When I see a profile I suspect is a phony, inevitably when viewing my “mutual friends” on Facebook, there’s someone I know to be a law officer. Not once, when I contact one of those real officers about how they know the presumed phony, have they answered that they know them to be real. It’s always along the lines of “they post a lot on XYZ page and he seems like a "good guy.” Of course he does. That’s part of the ruse.
It’s not a popularity contest. Every time you’re presented with a friend request from someone you don’t know, tell yourself it might really be a wacko up to no good, because it could be.