In December, it was discovered that an individual was posing as deceased Marine Matthew Pucino on both Facebook and a dating site. Police now believe that they have found the perpetrator behind the crime: 28-year-old New York man Brandon Ashraf.
Ashraf actually reached out to Pucino’s sisters to alert them to the fake page after it had already been revealed to them, though the sisters now believe he did it to cover his tracks.
“At first I thought he was the good guy, I thought he had done us a favor, until he started communicating,” said Lisa Haglof, Pucino’s sister. “Obviously for Brandon it was a lure, something he wished he could have done and he just can’t.”
After Ashraf contacted them, Pucino’s sisters began an investigation of their own and steadily connected the dots. They reported him to police, who charged Ashraf earlier this week with a misdemeanor count of criminal impersonation.
Unfortunately, situations like this one aren’t uncommon. To protect yourself or a loved one from this kind of online identity theft, it helps to lock down Facebook profile photos and adjust the site’s privacy settings so only friends can see it. You can also Google an individual’s name to find out if any fake profiles exist under their identity. However, as Pucino’s sister notes, nothing can take back the heartache incidents like this can cause.
“People don’t realize [the hurt],” Haglof said. “Every day, we wake up and think of Matthew. People who do things like this, don’t realize how much it hurts.”