Millions of identities stolen, used to write fake comments on government website

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Millions of comments left online about a major government program are fake.

Thousands are from Charlotte, and it's possible someone even pretended to be you to write them.

The Federal Communication Commission's website has a comment section where people can weigh in on whether or not the internet should remain open to everyone or be restricted based on what you pay.

The major issue called net neutrality is scheduled to voted on by the FCC on Thursday. The agency could choose to rollback regulations that prohibits tech corporations from intentionally restricting or slowing down the internet for some users to be able to charge extra fees.

At first glance, more than 22 million comments were posted on the FCC's web page, however, experts told Channel 9 that about half of the comments aren't real.

It appears someone used the names and addresses of millions of people to comment.

For example, Channel 9 found Dylan Webster's name and address from Rock Hill. He's named next to a comment on the net neutrality issue, that he never wrote.

Channel 9 showed Webster his post on a laptop.

"I can tell you that's definitely not me,” Webster said. “Wow. That's scary.”

In North Carolina, the FCC site lists 600,000 people who supposedly weighed in on the net neutrality issue.  There are more than 73,000 comments from Charlotte, and Channel 9 even found Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton's name listed among them.

Rock Hill shows more than 6,000 comments.

"Thai's just awful,” said Tommie Simpson, who saw her name listed. “What is net neutrality?" she said.

Winthrop University computer scientist Stephen Dannelly said it's disturbing to see this happen, because the government was trying to get public input on a serious issue, and it's mostly invalid now.  He said millions of people could have their names and personal information used for anything, like a hotel review.

"It could even be a comment about how good this hotel is or how good this restaurant is," Dannelly said.  "Anything you ever typed into a computer is out there somewhere for someone to collect."

The FCC posted a letter on its website stating that ITT’s aware of the issue, but can't take down the phony comments.

However, a person can contact the FCC to tell them the comment given in their name is not theirs.

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