Beware of police impersonators online
No one makes a protective vest for a cop on Facebook
According to an old English proverb, a man is known by the company he keeps. On Facebook, some police officers are keeping company they wouldn’t otherwise, and the same officers who guard themselves, their families and colleagues diligently day in and day out are behaving as though they’ve forgotten they work in one of the most dangerous professions out there.
There is no telltale sign that a profile on Facebook that appears to be a police officer is not really a police officer. It’s a combination of things that gives us reason to believe a profile might be phony. But those same reasons might also be interpreted as signs of a cop trying to protect his identity. Things like vague references to one’s employer, a profile photo depicting an eagle, the flag or even Jesus are all prevalent on these fake profiles. Look at the photo albums and there are rarely photos of real people. Instead we see images including cartoon characters, logos, random military and police photos.
One profile we know to have been fake is that of “Ron Swalows”. Have your laugh at the name — and then please take this seriously. It’s almost believable because in this case, there’s a photo of a real looking cop in uniform.
Close inspection will show (look just under his name) that he works for “Police”. Clicking that link will bring up a Wikipedia-style page defining a police officer. Facebook told me how many mutual friends we had. I emailed a couple of those friends, who are real friends I know in real life who are law officers. I emailed them to ask them what they knew about Mr. Swalows.
The only way we knew for certain that this profile was fake was because we saw that the photo used was that of Larry Nehasil, an officer who was gunned-down in Livonia, Michigan in January 2011. Here’s his profile on the Officer Down Memorial Page.
These people are learning a lot about the cops who friend them, as well as their colleagues and family members. It sure would be easy to learn an officer’s kids’ names and where they go to school or take karate lessons. I’m extremely concerned for three reasons. By friending a cop, they gain:
1.) Access to a law officer’s personal information
The only way to guard oneself from these predators – and they are predators – is to be absolutely certain that everyone you friend on Facebook is someone you know is real. They may not be holding a gun to your head, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t wishing to harm you because you wear a uniform. It also doesn’t mean that they’re not just as dangerous as a loaded round headed in your direction.
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