Stanly businesses hampered by fake social media pages, websites

Businesses in Stanly have recently been the victims of identity theft, both on websites and social media.

In terms of local law enforcement, Stanly County Sheriff Jeff Crisco said he has heard about the sites. He said he was told it was one of their deputies.

“I can tell you it isn’t anyone from the Sheriff’s Office, and from what we can tell, the number comes back to an IP address…with those types of scams, there is no way to track them,” Crisco said.

Albemarle Nutrition, Make It Personal by MM, Pretty Please Boutique and Nona Louise have all reported fake accounts to Facebook which have been contacting their followers.

Several weeks ago, Make It Personal owner Mary Margaret Wysocki ran a contest on Facebook for a giveaway. Suddenly, she received messages from customers saying they had gotten friend requests from a page which was not hers.

The page used the company logo and product images, but the name of the page was slightly different. In this case, the page was named Make It Personal North Carolina, Wysocki said.

Her customers got messages saying they had won but had to click a link to register and give their credit card number, which Wysocki said she never would require.

Nancee Bowers, owner of Albemarle Nutrition, said the same thing happened to her.

Her business, operating for 15 years, has been on Facebook for about eight to 10 years.

Like many businesses last month, Bowers did a promotion for Valentine’s Day, which she said is her favorite holiday because it’s associated with pink, her favorite color.

She got a message from a customer who said they had received a message and asked for money, adding they knew it was not from Bowers or anyone at her place of business.

“They took our pictures,” Bowers said of the fake Facebook page. “I didn’t think they would target me.”

Bowers added she and others knew it was fake because Albemarle Nutrition does not have an online store.

Her first move was to message Facebook, which responded an hour later saying the fake page “does not go against our policies.”

Bowers’ fellow business owner, Wysocki, had gone through the same experience, so the Albemarle Nutrition owner called her.

“She said, ‘Get your customers to complain,’ ” Bowers said, adding Facebook would take the page down if enough complaints were received.

Wysocki also tried to get an Instagram account taken down, which was fake as well. Instagram, another social media platform, is owned by Facebook, who purchased it in 2012.

Sandy Selvy-Mullis, president and CEO of the Stanly County Chamber of Commerce, strongly encourages consumers who see something suspicious on a local business’ website or social media account to report it to the store owner as soon as possible. Customers can also contact the Chamber who will then notify the member business and assist them.

“The sooner the business knows about a possible threat to their account, the sooner they can notify customers and hopefully limit the amount of damage,” Selvy-Mullis said.

Bowers said the entire process has made her a little wary of using Facebook to do giveaways. She said giveaways will now only be done in the store.

“I don’t want anybody to ever have their credit card compromised,” Bowers said.

“It was fun on Facebook,” she added regarding giveaways, saying “I could reach 10,000 to 12,000 people versus reaching maybe 1,000 people in the store.”

Having an online presence is still important, Bowers said, noting many regular customers have moved but still want to shop with her.

“I thought it would be nice if they could just do everything themselves then check out…and then I could mail (items) to them. I’m going to have to take the Shop button down,” Bowers said.

A long-time supporter of shopping locally, Bowers said with what is going on in the world, “there is a big movement now…for people to get back to the community.”

Many of her customers, she said, have ditched shopping platform Amazon, and Bowers said she believes the same will happen to Facebook.

Some pages and accounts have been taken down, but with Pretty Please in Locust, the fake Instagram account was still up as of Tuesday evening.

Makayla Kluttz, co-owner of Pretty Please Boutique along with her mother, Angela, said not only has her business had fake accounts created on social media, but there was also a fake website.

“We’re actually in the process of trying to get that taken down,” Kluttz said. “It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand why people feel the need to do that.”

When she reported the fake accounts, all she got back from Facebook was a message saying basically thanks for reporting the information.

She has had work done on her website to add extra layers of security for customers, which Kluttz said they did “to be more cautious.”

Like other businesses, Pretty Please has stopped doing contests online and uses Facebook for posts regarding merchandise.

“Honestly, it just frustrates me and I’m trying to get (the sites) taken down and reported,” Kluttz said. “We don’t necessarily put a lot of personal information out there.”