A number of Facebook and Instagram accounts have been parading as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, tricking vulnerable individuals into sending large amounts of money in order to collect bogus lottery winnings, the New York Times reports. The newspaper describes multiple cases wherein Facebook users were contacted by fake accounts claiming to be Facebook executives offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in supposed winnings. In many cases, the "winners" were asked to send hundreds of dollars in iTunes gift card redemption codes or even thousands of dollars in cash -- delivery fees required for collecting the lottery funds.
The New York Times found 205 Facebook and Instagram accounts pretending to be Zuckerberg or Sandberg and at least 51 were running lottery scams. Following the publication of the report, Facebook had removed all of the noted accounts. A company spokesperson told the newspaper that spotting such accounts isn't easy, adding, "We want to get better."
Fake accounts, though not allowed by Facebook, are a persistent issue for the company and a tactic used by Russian groups to spread political discord during the last US presidential election. Zuckerberg was questioned about fake accounts during his recent Congressional hearings. "This is an important issue and fake accounts, overall, are a big issue, because that's how a lot of the other issues that we see around fake news and foreign election interference are happening, as well," Zuckerberg said in a response to questions from Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).