Don’t be fooled by this fake Charlotte pet adoption Facebook page

WBTV reached out to Facebook’s parent company Meta for answers --- Meta responded by saying they have forwarded WBTV’s request to their internal law enforcement team to help resolve the issues that CMPD’s Animal Care department have faced for months.
The hack happened months ago but the department has been unable to restore access to the account, and after some dormancy, new posts are being made
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 3:43 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The security of Facebook is important to all users, and as most people know there are bad actors who are sometimes successful in hacking an account and taking it over.

That’s what happened to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care and Control account, now they’re asking for the public’s help to get the word out to help people follow the department’s real account.

(Note: the link provided above is NOT the CMPD’s account any longer, you can find the new account here)

It’s causing serious problems for the department and for animals in need of homes as the shelter continues to face overcrowding problems.

“WE NEED YOUR HELP! Our old Facebook page (@animalscmpd) was hacked over 6 months ago and is now posting crazy things. Please go to that page, report it as fake, and be sure to block/unfollow so we can get this page taken down,” according to a Facebook post from a new account for the department.

The hack happened months ago but the department has been unable to restore access to the account, and after some dormancy, whoever controls the account is posting to it.

After months without any results from Meta, Facebook’s parent company, Meta responded to a WBTV request about the situation and said they are going to help the department.

“Just letting you know that I have sent this on to our law enforcement liaison team who are going to contact the Police department to investigate/help them,” a Meta employee wrote in an email to WBTV.

Ongoing concerns

The problems first started last year when one of the city’s administrators for the account received an alert about the account and passwords.

“Back in October, our social media specialist received a. Just kind of an alert about needing to change passwords and things like that. So she went through all the steps ... And then all of a sudden, we couldn’t access the Facebook page at all, even though we had multiple admins,” Melissa Knicely, Animal Aare and Control Spokesperson said.

Once the problem was realized the department started working to solve the problem.

“We started taking steps ... working on trying to actually get a person to speak to at Facebook,” Knicely said.

Seven months later the city is still locked out of the page and although the page was dormant for several months Knicely said she found out new posts on the original page are popping up and can cause confusion for followers of the account.

“I just want to make sure everybody knows the old Facebook page. We are not posting anything on that and we would love everyone to migrate over to the new page for us,” she said.

The importance of social media and getting pets into homes

Social media platforms like Facebook have become a part of everyday life for many, it’s a way to connect with friends and share memories --- but for government agencies Facebook serves a different purpose, often to reach members of the community.

For animal services pages it can be a place to share photos of adoptable pets and help find them homes or simply share content related to the agency. Knicely said the impact of the hack hasn’t just impacted the city --- but the animals that desperately need new homes.

“It really affected us, we had over 30,000 people that follow us and we went through the busiest parts of our, we are struggling for dog space right now. So we really need dog adoptions and we really need people to foster. So we lost the ability to get a lot of our messaging out on Facebook,” she said.

The department has since started a new account and there are other platforms like Instagram used by Animal Care and Control, but the reach of Facebook is important to the agency.

“Facebook still remains one of the main platforms that animal welfare uses. Instagram is probably second, but there’s still a lot of people because Facebook covers a lot of ages. And our adopters are all the way from 18 all the way up to seniors,” Knicely said.

The timing of the hack couldn’t have come at a worse time Knicely said.

“For our donors around the holidays and the end of the year, that’s when a lot of people make donations at the end of the year, so it really, really hurt us,” she said.

The lack of a solution thus far from Meta has been frustrating for Knicely.

“Facebook hasn’t seemed to want to resolve the issue, at this point in time, we just really want them to take the page down because we’ve made the decision --- we’ve moved over, we’ve started a new page. And if they take that page down, then maybe a lot of our followers that still think that that’s our page will understand that that’s not our page,” she said.

Apart from the hack, the need for foster families for pets remains critical.

It’s a really perfect storm that we’re about to get to, and the way that the community can help is you can come and foster. If you can come and foster a dog for a few weeks for us to help make space. Ideally what we want to see is all the dogs that are up for adoption and are ready to go into their new homes could be staying in a foster home,” she said.

It’s not a new problem either, Knicely said it’s a constant problem and has been for years.

I feel like I’m one of those people that gets interviewed every few weeks and I just keep saying the same thing I have for the past two-and-a-half to three years --- we are full with dogs,” she said.