Police: A dozen ‘fake premiers’ on Instagram

Scammers are falsely using the names of Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin and Attorney General Sam Bulgin in bogus fundraising efforts, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service reported Tuesday.

“The Financial Crime Unit is aware of at least 12 fake Instagram profiles that are impersonating the premier,” a police statement indicated. “The scammers are claiming to offer intended victims funds from a ‘United Nations Grant’ of various sorts.”

In addition to Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Bulgin, the names or other high-ranking Cayman civil servants are being used in similar scams, police said.

Premier McLaughlin does not maintain an official Instagram account.

Repeated reports of the premier’s name being used for various social media “fundraisers” have been made since 2016.

One example was reported to Instagram in early October 2017. The account in this case was obviously a fake. The name attached to it was the “Hon. Alden McLaughli” (sic) and the page contained more than a dozen photos of the premier, most of which came from official events, such as press conferences or media photo ops.

Other attempts to impersonate the premier have been more sinister. In October 2016, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Financial Crime Unit issued a public warning about a fake Facebook page, purporting to belong to Mr. McLaughlin.

Police said that page, which had nothing to do with the premier, was being used in attempts to fraudulently solicit donations and bank account numbers from individuals who were “friended” by the fake account.

The page was removed from Facebook and RCIPS investigators noted it appeared no one had been defrauded.

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

That appears to be what has happened more recently with the Instagram pages linked falsely to Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Bulgin.

“Members of the public are advised not to communicate with any profiles that they suspect may be scammers, and to be wary of any solicitations for financial details or donations via Instagram or any other social media,” an RCIPS statement released Tuesday read. “If any member of the public encounters one of these fake profiles they are asked to take a screenshot and forward it to the RCIPS Financial Crime Unit.”