Tech

Man arrested for impersonating Trump family to pocket campaign donations

The 22-year-old created fake social media accounts purporting to be Trump or other members of his family and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) gestures toward first lady Melania Trump and his son Barron Trump after delivering his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump gave the speech in front of 1500 invited guests. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

We hope he at least enjoyed it while it lasted. Joshua Hall, a 22-year old from Pennsylvania, has been arrested by the Justice Department for impersonating the Trump family on social media to raise fake campaign donations. In all, he managed to pocket “hundreds of thousands of dollars” by pretending to be former President Trump and his 15-year-old son Barron.

The fake accounts gained hundreds of thousands of followers, posting endorsements of Hall as a politician as well as encouraging MAGA types to donate to an organization that would support the reelection of President Trump. One such post read, “Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country. He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT.”

Hall, of course, is not a politician, nor is he in any way related to the Trump family. Instead, he was simply lining his own pockets. Which, granted, is the sort of thing we’d expect a Trump to do.

Blue checks — While we’re not all too disappointed about MAGA supporters throwing away money on a fake political campaign, we suggest you be careful when donating money online, especially to accounts purporting to be high-profile individuals.

They should be verified with a blue checkmark on whatever platform you’re viewing, and there should be a disclaimer somewhere indicating the political action committee (PAC) that will receive the funds. Generally, PACs that will contribute funds to a political campaign must register at the state or federal level.

A room full of Hall’s targets.The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Social media fails again — With all the boasting that social media platforms have made about their ability to identify misinformation, it’s kind of surprising they didn’t spot these accounts after they amassed so many followers. But then again it’s not totally surprising either considering their track records.

Hall was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, the latter of which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison. He faces up to 22 years in total if convicted on both charges.