Fake Facebook page using Nathan Cirillo's name, photos, used to 'catfish' women online
Account shut down following unrelated complaints made by veterans' group
A Facebook page using the name and photos of a Canadian soldier killed in a terror attack has been used to lure and trick women into romantic relationships.
Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed Oct. 22, 2014, while on sentry duty at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa, during an attack carried out by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.
Four women who spoke to CBC News say they corresponded with an account bearing the name and likeness of the slain corporal.
The women, who live in different parts of the United States, say they had no idea the account was fake, or that its profile photo was that of a dead Canadian soldier.
The social media account was active for at least the past month but was shut down Monday night, after unrelated complaints were made about the profile.
A member of an online group for veterans spotted the fake account Monday, and asked other members of the online community to formally complain to Facebook.
"I was completely disgusted, I was angry, I could not believe that someone would stoop so low," said Sylvain Chartrand, the organizer of the online group Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
Within two hours of the first formal complaint, the account was deleted.
A spokesperson for Facebook said this type of impersonation — sometimes called "catfishing" — violates its community standards requirements.
From compliments to nude photos
"I kinda felt really, like, used," said Amanda Jo Poff, 31, of Wisconsin, who had been chatting with the account every day for the past three weeks.
Poff says she accepted a Facebook friend request from the fake Cirillo account because the photos featured a man in uniform. Her stepfather, who passed away two years ago, had served in the marines, and when she saw the picture of Cirillo, she says she instantly felt a connection.
It didn't take long for the fake account to start sending complimentary messages that Poff said made her increasingly uncomfortable.
Poff says it started innocently with comments like "You have beautiful eyes" and "You're beautiful." She said she kept communicating with the account because "he made me feel good."
The tone of the conversation changed, and eventually the fake account sent a photo of a man nude from the waist down. Poff said he asked for photos in return, but not nude photos.
"I didn't get to that point," she said. "He was getting really kind of possessive in a way, cause he wanted to know what I was doing and all that."
Asking personal questions
The person behind the fake account also made claims he was on a peacekeeping mission overseas.
"He said, 'We're in the air now, going to Africa. I will text you once I land in Africa,' so we stopped talking for a few hours, and then he started texting again, saying he landed in Africa."
Lexi Hansley, from Williamstown, Ky., had a similar experience.
"It just started off with a simple 'hey' at first. I did the normal thing and just replied 'hi' back," the high school senior said.
"It slowly started to downgrade," Hansley said. "He started asking me a few personal questions, like what I look like, could I send a picture or could I show what I look like."
Hansley also received a nude photo. Hers arrived two days before her 18th birthday.
But what upsets her the most is that someone would impersonate a dead soldier.
"I was actually pretty mad to find out he has enough guts to actually impersonate this man," she said. "'Cause I did a little research earlier on the man, and to know that he has a kid kind of made it more annoying."
Marie Yorks, of Berwick, Pa., and Kathy Fulk Creech, of King, N.C., both of whom spoke to CBC News via Facebook Messenger, said they had similar experiences with the account.
It remains unclear who is behind the fake account, but Hansley and Chartrand both say they hope Facebook investigates the incident.