UP TO a dozen well-known Irish celebrities and media personalities have had their identities hijacked on the Facebook website.
Celebrity chef Rachel Allen, Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy, columnist Fintan O'Toole, and former Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue have all fallen victim to the mass fraud in recent weeks.
Speculation is rife that the hijacking is linked to a humorous Twitter account – and the accompanying blog – which has been appearing online under the name of Geraldine Kennedy.
The Madam Editor Twitter account has been causing consternation with its close-to-the-bone comments about real-time and real-life events inside the Irish Times office.
Shortly after its existence was publicised in the Sunday Tribune, friend requests were winging their way to hundreds of Facebook users in the names of prominent Irish people. The first to arrive was a "friend request" from Fintan O'Toole, the Irish Times columnist and author, although it was not immediately apparent it was false. The first clue is the favourite quotation listed on the site, which reads: "The life of a pseudonym is the life of a dead man, of one who does not exist."
Friend requests were also received by hundreds of Irish people from an account masquerading as Geraldine Kennedy herself. The account lists the Irish Times editor as having been born in 1950, having studied at UCD and employed by "an old lady". It also features cryptic allusions to HobNob biscuits, references which were also made using the fake Twitter account.
Under activities, it reads: "Eating Hobnobs." For interests, it says "nothing cultural". In the music category, it lists "the crunching sound of HobNobs" and in the movies and books category, it says "All the President's Women" and "Stephen Collins [political editor] on our beloved PDs".
Kennedy has already recruited 248 friends despite the fact that the page is a fake. Whoever has actually set up the account now has full access to the personal details and photographs of all of these facebook friends.
The fraudulent accounts all have several things in common and generally link back to anonymous hotmail accounts that cannot be traced.
Another Facebook profile was set up using the name of Rachel Allen, the celebrity chef, which lists activities as: "Making sandwiches, cooking, simpering." Under the interests section, it lists "signature sandwiches [and] being in the media", and in books, it says: "The Man Inside the Jacket by Mr Tayto."
Allen's favourite movie is listed as "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", the controversial Peter Greenaway film in which one character is roasted and served for dinner.
The former Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue has also fallen victim to the scammers with his account suggesting that "Fianna Fáil must go". His favourite quotation is listed as "I did nothing illegal" while his profile also features the tagline: "Let the bastards eat cake... I am the Bull, the Bull by name, the Bull by nature... Regency Ireland Says Enough."
Two other accounts have also been set up in the names of Aengus Fanning and Gerry O'Regan, the editors of the Sunday Independent and the Irish Independent. Fanning's profile features a picture of a walrus and under the section television says: "Brendan O'Connor – the most annoying ... [person] on TV."
Complaints to Facebook have not resulted in the accounts being deleted or any apparent action taken as yet.