Mekahlo Medina/ Mark James
District Attorney Jackie Lacey fell victim to a catfishing scam aimed at gaining the trust of her online following. A cyber security expert spoke to NBC4 about the techniques online pirates use to gain access to users' personal information. Mekahlo Medina reports from downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.
Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor has been a victim of catfishing, a digital ruse in which online pirates snatch photos and impersonate victims in an attempt to scam followers, the District Attorney’s Office confirmed to NBC4 Thursday.
The phony Facebook page under Jackie Lacey’s name uses her official picture with the District Attorney’s emblem in the background.
The pirate behind the page would start the scam by sending messages to followers who thought they were connecting to the real Lacey on the social network.
The messages began: "Have you heard the good news?"
Once a follower responded back, they’d receive a message telling them of a lottery promotion from Facebook that could net $500,000. That money could be theirs, the scam stated, if they “liked” another Facebook page. On that second page is likely where the pirate tried to nab the users’ personal information, experts said.
In Lacey’s office, the Bureau of Investigations is investigating the scam.
A technology security expert said Lacey is among some 500,000 people hit by this type of phishing scam every year.
Everyone is vulnerable, according to Marco Alcala, head of Alcala Consulting in Eagle Rock.
But because her high profile can attract more victims, using Lacey’s image in a scheme like this is more like "whale-fishing" than "catfishing," Alcala said.
He said if someone finds themselves a victim like Lacey, they should alert the social network involved immediately to let them know there is an imposter page. Next, all passwords should be changed in case they’ve been compromised.
Lacey went one step further: she deleted her real Facebook page entirely, a move that Alcala said is a "good step."
Getting off the grid for a while can help authorities narrow their investigation, Alcala said.
And if you get any direct message from a Facebook page asking you to click a link, Alcala said to air on the side of caution and don’t press the mouse.