Kerry-Ann sits in her living room scrolling through a Facebook buy-and-sell group she frequently uses to get rid of old items and make some extra cash.
The groups have exploded on the social media site and popped up in many communities, including the Beaches and East York.
But Kerry-Ann, who prefers not to use her last name, is considering leaving Facebook altogether.
“My account wasn’t hacked, it was cloned, and someone used me as a pawn to prey upon innocent people,” she says.
She was at work when buyers kept messaging her on Facebook about a post. It was under her name, with her profile picture attached to it.
“My aunt is getting ready to start her own clothing brand for teens and young adults and she is looking for people to be size testers for her!” the post reads. It continues, “As a sizes tester you would get everything shipped to you for free and you give your feedback online so you can do everything from home.”
The post explains that the clothing can be kept, but that “she is especially looking for girls between 12 and 18.”
The response was overwhelming.
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Many in the group commented, “”Yes I have two daughters 16 and 15 would be interested!” and “Sure my daughter is 14” plus “Yes, please my daughter would love to be a size tester.”
When Kerry-Ann realized this post went up under her name, she was shocked, because she says she did not write it.
“It’s just disgusting and it’s unfortunate that we have people like this that are around us doing things like this,” she notes, after several sleepless nights.
Kerry-Ann was quick to alert group members that her account was cloned, and she called Toronto police.
“It’s unfortunate that a lot of families thought that because they knew me personally or they knew of me that this was a safe haven for them and something they can do.”
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They didn’t only provide full names and home addresses. At least two mothers, who prefer to remain anonymous, told Global News they also sent photographs of their teenage daughters.
Once these group members commented they were “interested” in the so-called “clothing brand” the interaction continued on Google Hangouts.
One mother shared a screenshot of the interaction.
“Thanks for contacting me here! How the app works is something like a snapchat, except instead of putting something funny on your face, it finds your body shape and takes measurements.. It works best to do the app wearing your best fitting bra and tighter fitting clothing. It will walk through multiple measurements of her and may have you do one in a bra or with a different bra / top.”
For some families, this raised a red flag.
But not for everyone.
“We spend so much time on these social media pages, we become complacent, we let our guard down and we act too quickly,” says Const. Jon Morrice, crime prevention officer with Toronto Police Service.
“The scammers and predators that are out there, they’re getting more sophisticated, and they’re learning how to prey on people other than what used to be just the seniors or the younger people,” he adds.
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The woman who runs the Facebook buy-and-sell group where the post first went up says she felt sick when she heard what happened, for several reasons.
“Knowing the poster, the real poster, personally, I never expected it to not be her requesting the information, that’s why it didn’t get flagged to me or seem suspicious,” she says.
The post has now been spotted in multiple buy-and-sell groups, attached to different Facebook profiles.
“There’s like hundreds of thousands of Facebook groups and if this has happened all over, how are we going to even know how many actual families have been affected by this, how much information they’ve actually accessed? It’s really scary,” she adds.
While police investigate, they offer these basic tips: Talk to a friend and get an objective point of view before you respond, reply, subscribe or send photos over social media.
As for Kerry-Ann, while she feels sad this happened to her, she says she also feels badly for the many families affected by it.
“It’s pretty scary that a lot of people actually did this. but at the same time, I understand because they thought it was me.”