The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office has reported a fake Facebook account using the office’s name to post a report about a Somerset County homicide that never happened.

It’s a familiar problem that’s plagued other police departments in recent months.

In a Facebook post on Feb. 16, the real sheriff’s office wrote that it had noticed a peculiar notification, in which a Facebook user with the same name had shared a post from months earlier. Much like a recent incident involving the Skowhegan Police Department, the bogus account posted about a false story involving a child killing his or her parents.

“A click on the page showed that we also posted a link to an article about a 7 year old killing their parents in Somerset County … that never happened. If anyone else sees this other page, DO NOT CLICK ON ANY OF THE LINKS. You will be opening yourself up to viruses and possibly other cyber attacks,” the post read in part.

In early December, the Skowhegan Police Department posted that a fake account using its name had posted a hoax about a triple murder in town.

Also in December, the Augusta Police Department warned the public that someone had created a fake police Facebook page that “looks almost identical to our legitimate page but has several less postings, likes and activity.”

There have been reports of this happening to other police departments across the country as well. In January, an Ohio police department reported a fake Facebook page, and just last week, Connecticut State Police reported a fake page as well.

Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jim Ross said the fake account probably was created the night before and was discovered by a deputy who monitors the agency’s account in the morning. He said Facebook had been notified, and now it is just a matter of Facebook taking action.

He said this was the first time his department had been targeted, but added that it was one of many instances of fake news being disseminated across the country.

“They post horrific crimes that are totally bogus,” Ross said. “It’s just bizarre that people take the time to do that.”

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office wrote that it has reported the fake account — jokingly saying the office had been attacked by the “Secret Facebook Doppelganger Society” — and advised the public to report it as well. The real sheriff’s office Facebook page has more than 5,000 followers, and it wrote that the fake account has significantly less.

Ross said such instances of false news posts on Facebook are “part of the times,” as Facebook is such a powerful communication tool. “To have something like this happen is rather disturbing,” he said.

While Facebook has been notified, Ross said in cases like these, it’s difficult to catch whoever was responsible for the post, because the person could be anywhere in the world.

“These groups that do this tend to be very fluid, and its really very hard to actually get your hands on them,” Ross said.

The Skowhegan event involved a fake page linking to a story about a mother killing her three sons and then stabbing herself. The police agency’s page wasn’t hacked; instead, a look-alike page was created.

One Facebook user posted on the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office page that whoever was responsible for the fake account should be arrested. The Sheriff’s Office posted that the originator of the page hadn’t committed a crime, but the user responded:

“Well they have identified themselves as a law enforcement agency. I have reported that page to Facebook but they say it does’t (sic) violate their rules/terms, whatever. Some people’s kids…..”

Sgt. Chris Tupper, of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, said his agency had not been made aware of the Somerset County incident as of Thursday afternoon. He said the Computer Crimes Unit would help if its assistance is requested and it was clear that a crime was committed.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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