‘Hundreds’ of instances of fake online profiles of Premier McLaughlin

Premier Alden McLaughlin responded to a report about a fraudulent Facebook profile purporting to be him on Tuesday with a mix of resignation and alarm.

“There’s been hundreds of similar instances – Facebook, Instagram and others – over the past few years,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We’ve reported them repeatedly to the authorities, to no avail.”

The latest scam bearing the premier’s name was executed over the Easter vacation.

A Cayman Brac resident received a message on Facebook from a fake profile purporting to be Mr. McLaughlin, and the message was apparently an attempt at soliciting funds for a fraudulent “Cash Grant Programme” ostensibly sponsored by the government of the Bahamas.

The government of the Bahamas learned of the scam last September, and the Cabinet of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis issued a statement warning people not to take the message at face value.

“The Cabinet Office wishes to advise the general public that the Prime Minister is not aware of any such program nor has he recommended any person or group to receive benefits from such a program,” said the warning message back in September. “This information is without foundation and patently false.”

The Cayman Compass reported in October that many fraudulent profiles of Mr. McLaughlin were circulating in the world of social media. In one case, a fake Instagram profile of the premier was found and reported last October. That profile gained more than 500 followers on Instagram.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Financial Crimes Unit also issued a public notice about a fake Facebook page purporting to be Mr. McLaughlin in October 2016. That page had been used to fraudulently solicit donations and bank account numbers from people who had “friended” the fake account.

RCIPS investigators said at the time that the page was removed from Facebook and that it appeared that nobody had been defrauded by the fake profile page.

“However, new fraudulent pages may appear,” a police statement noted.

Last July, there was a fraudulent Twitter page purporting to represent Mr. McLaughlin, and it had been sending out tweets and interacting with people over the social messaging service.