Although we like to hope for the best in people, some individuals want to deceive us. Impersonation used to be more of a comical notion that was difficult to pull off in real life. But social media has meant it’s become easier than ever to pretend to be someone you’re not. In some cases, these schemes can do serious damage to your life.
There are some horror stories out there about people seeing themselves in their friend suggestions or dealing with drama stemming from someone stealing their face. Learning about these events is essential to know how to handle them.
Why Do People Pose as Others Online?
Social media is a fantastic tool that helps people connect with others all over the world. Such platforms offer the perfect place for someone to keep in touch (or reconnect) with old friends or even meet new people. When you use these services, it’s only natural that you would use your own photos; however, not everyone does.
There are many different reasons why people choose to make their profile pictures something other than their face.
Many are just uncomfortable sharing photos of themselves and instead share pictures of their favorite celebrities or cartoon characters. Generally, these people aren’t pretending to be anyone else and just want to enjoy the platform without showing their face.
Impersonation is not when someone’s shyness, hobbies, or passion for privacy prompts them to post pictures that clearly are not them. It’s cases where people take on the role of someone else with the intention of tricking others into believing a false identity.
While some platforms, like Reddit, allow people to enjoy their services anonymously, most popular social media platforms are there to encourage users to connect and network.
Sometimes, people simply steal what they find or like. A lot of fake (or bot) accounts use celebrity shots or stock photos. But some users take a more personal route, finding it more advantageous to steal photos from the average Joe, making the impersonation less obvious.
It can be a random “attack” where someone happens to stumble across a profile of yours and steals a couple of natural-looking shots. It makes profiles look more organic and perfect weapons for scamming or catfishing people. In some cases, these attacks aim to hurt the victim themselves rather than con people they send the messages or requests to.
There were cases where the impersonation victims knew their perpetrators. The offenders had a personal vendetta against the victim, so they made a fake account. These accounts are often more convincing as the impersonator may have access to sensitive information about family, friends, and demographics that make the profiles much more believable.
This sometimes occurs when someone accidentally stays logged into an account on a public device or shares their passwords.
Malicious individuals could hijack an account and change the password so only they can use it. If it’s an account you don’t use often, it may take a long time before you realize someone posted on your profile or sent Direct Messages.
Should I Care if Someone Poses as Me Online?
They say mimicry is the highest form of flattery, but this doesn’t mean you should look at impostor accounts as a compliment. They can cause significant havoc in both your social and professional lives. Our society relies heavily on social media to facilitate relationships and establish a reputation.
While it’s pretty easy to regulate the content of our profiles so that they can’t get us in trouble, what happens when that control is lost? People associate your accounts with your face and your personality. The statuses you write, messages you send, and affiliations you declare are all reflections of your character.
If someone uses your face and name to scam others or post controversial (or outright offensive) things, this can be horrible for you.
Even if you ignore the repercussions this would undoubtedly have on your social life, the damage such actions have on potential work recruiters or schools may be irreversible. Think about all the stories about people getting fired or universities revoking scholarships or admission due to social media behavior.
And then you have to consider the effect this might have on your family and friends. Being tricked is one thing; it becomes far more serious if they genuinely think the fake profile if you, and reveal any private information which could lead to phishing scams, for instance.
What Should You Do If Someone Poses as You Online?
Social media administrators rightly take this seriously. Even Reddit formally banned impersonating people.
Fortunately, removing fake profiles can be a relatively simple process.
Major social media platforms have special impersonation reporting processes. Filling out a simple online form is enough for sites like Facebook or Instagram to take accounts down. Platforms will sometimes freeze accounts under investigation until they determine the rightful owner.
You don’t even need an account on the platform to report suspicious activity. Simply go to the help center on the respective website and follow the onscreen instructions.
While the steps to secure an account differ slightly between platforms, they usually follow the same standard procedure.
First, you must identify the problem, i.e. report crucial details for special cases like whether someone stole your actual account and is using it or is impersonating your company. Next, link to the account you want to report.
Finally, you must offer some proof of identity (which may include government-issued licenses or answering questions about your profile).
Depending on the area you live in, impersonation may constitute “harassment or terror,” meaning perpetrators can face legal repercussions. While this is often challenging to prove, it’s a good idea to document the event. It also helps establish your innocence if there’s further complications, like an impersonator scamming others using your identity.
While it’s not unheard of, online impersonations are usually rare and easily addressed. It’s not something you generally need to fear, but if it does happen to you, take it seriously.
Securing social media accounts is incredibly important. You must know how to address online impersonation if it happens to you before it has the chance to wreak havoc on your life.
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