ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — One of the biggest cheerleaders of a massive protest in Canada involving truckers upset over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is supposedly a woman who lives more than 1,200 miles away in St. Joseph, Missouri.
But that woman said she’s no agitator, she’s a victim of identity theft.
Her name is listed as the creator of three Facebook groups all touting the Canadian trucker protest that’s been going on for two weeks in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa.
We’ve decided not to share the woman’s name since she’s upset about even being associated with the protest. She told us that people need to be warned that what happened to her, could happen to anyone with a social media account.
Yoav Keren, CEO of BrandShield, a cybersecurity company, said cyber criminals have become increasingly creative in impersonating people on sites like Facebook. Hackers love stealing the profile of a person who has had a Facebooks page for years and then using that identity to create a new Facebook group page. The public is less suspicious of groups created by old Facebook members, than groups created by someone who is brand new to Facebook.
In this case, the St. Joseph woman’s profile was first being used illicitly in January in a group page formed to raise money supposedly for former President Donald Trump. Then in February, three Facebook group pages popped up under her profile supporting and raising money for truckers opposing Canadian vaccine mandates.
She’d like to know who hacked her page. Political Science Professor Don Haider-Markel of the University of Kansas said he has a pretty good idea.
“Rightwing actors from the U.S., Europe and Australia have been helping fund this movement,” said Haider-Markel, referring to reports that meta data from one of the group’s fundraising sites was not properly protected and has been leaked to the public.
Haider-Markel said far-right players have latched onto a variety of protest movements across the world -as a way of getting their message out. He said an anti-vaccine mandate March fits well into their narrative of a tyrannical government.
“It’s really not that different than the kind of misinformation that Russian operatives put out, that Chinese operatives put out, that North Korean operatives put out.,” Haider-Markel said.
Those groups can make sure protests will last weeks by raising money to support them via fake Facebook pages.
“Even just running their vehicles that long and eating and not working, that cost becomes too steep if you don’t have people supporting you,” he said.
So far, social fundraising has brought in nearly $15 million for the trucker convoy protest.
How do you protect your identity from being used as the front man for one of these fake pages? You could take down all you social media accounts, but Haider-Merkel said even that won’t guarantee that cybercriminals won’t find and steal an old profile.
As for those bogus pages involving the woman from St. Joseph, Facebook has taken them down.