For some, a Facebook message from a bikini-clad stranger might be an obvious sign of a hoax or a computer virus. For more optimistic individuals, it might be dream come true.

But for one man, it meant something completely different: a court summons from an insurance company.

Manitoba Public Insurance created a fake profile using an image found on a public website to message Andrew Mykichuk an order to appear in court.

And he’s not the first person to receive this unpleasant surprise in their inbox.

Social media and the courts

In 2011, British lawyer Hilary Thorpe was having trouble getting a debtor to court. In what seems to be the first British case of Facebook being used in lieu of a real summons, Thorpe went through the courts to get permission to reach the individual through social media.

Thorpe was inspired by a case she had heard about three years earlier in Australia, where lawyer Mark McCormick obtained permission to serve legally-binding documents to a couple through Facebook.

Facebook a last resort

Although most people hop online to take a break from their lives, the Internet is an extra tool for people like Brian Smiley, who works for Manitoba Public Insurance.

He said social media is used as a last resort, and that they had previously tried contacting Mykichuk at several addresses and reaching out to his family.

Like the cases in the U.K. and Australia, Smiley said court permission is required to use this sort of tactic.

Although Mykichuk said he wasn’t impressed with the company’s deceptive tactics, Smiley is satisfied with the results.

“A profile was created of a female in a bikini and again reaching out to a male on Facebook to get his attention,” he said. “And it certainly worked.”