Facebook Messenger Impersonators Target Ministers, MPs Ahead of Federal Election

A number of federal cabinet ministers and multiple other members of Parliament had their Facebook Messenger accounts mimicked by bad actors offering to dole out government grants.

Just a few months before the federal election, the accounts associated with Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, and Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan were targeted by malicious users attempting to ask constituents to apply for federal grants.

Liberal MPs Terry Sheehan, Anthony Rota, Adam Vaughan, and Sherry Romanado also claimed to have been victims of personation on Facebook, posting messages to their real accounts imploring people to be vigilant of any false communications.

According to a report from CBC, the impersonators used false accounts to start conversations with constituents and ask them to apply for federal financial grants; in some cases, people were asked to make bank deposits to receive the grants.

“The last thing we wanted was someone getting scammed by what they believed was our account,” Rota told CBC, saying that his office never solicits individuals through Facebook.

The office of Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould sent out an email saying that the government is aware of the issue.

“It is important that not only Members of Parliament, but all citizens, remain vigilant and have an understanding of common online deceptive tactics like phishing or trolling,” said Meg Jaques,  a spokesperson for Gould.

Facebook said in a statement that it is taking the issue seriously.

“We do not tolerate misrepresentation on our platform and have worked quickly to disable imposter accounts,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “We will continue to monitor and take action in line with our policies and strongly encourage people to use the reporting and blocking tools within Messenger.”