Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Facebook Doppelganger

For those who need something else to worry about: I recently received a Facebook “friend request” from my brother. That is weird because I was already “friends” with my brother. Then, a couple of hours later, I received another request from another friend of mine that I was already friends with. A quick investigation revealed that my brother and friend fell victim to a Facebook impersonator. Spoiler: There is evidently not a dang thing anyone can do about it which is scary.

The potential danger here is that these fake profiles could be used to defame the individuals. I read a story of an ex-spouse who acquired some “revealing pictures” of their former spouse, made a profile under that spouses name, published the revealing pictures then “friended” the spouses friends and family. My brother, like his brother, would find great joy in the shock value of revealing pictures of him being posted somewhere. Some folks might not be so happy.

Other reasons for creating an impersonator profile may be to gather more information about you and your friends as part of identity theft. They may plan to target your friends with an “Emergency scam” by sending a message to your friends that says something like, “Help! I’m in Key West and was mugged and need money to get home!” It may be a part of of ruse to get friends to participate in a scam such as “I just lost 200 pounds using this new weight loss pill. Click here to buy it!”

Facebook can potentially track down the true identity of individuals and punish them with fines and imprisonment. Sadly, that’s a lot of trouble so if you fall victim to this, chances are you will simply put up with it.

If you know that you have been doppelganged, you have only one “easy” option. If you have access to the impostor's page, you can visit their profile and click on a link that allows you to “report” the duplicate profile. Unfortunately, the scammers often “block” the victim from seeing the imposter page therefore the victim cannot report it. Another option is to have a bunch of your friends visit the page and report it for other abuses such as “offensive material” even when the page isn’t really offensive in order to get the page taken down. I do not have hard evidence that this works but anecdotal reports suggests that it might.

Brad Pitt's Doppelganger
The last option is to hire an attorney. That is expensive but may be the only resort for some people. As with most things, prevention is the best medicine. My friends had their profiles and posts set to “public” which means anyone can see their entire profile. That allows a potential scammer to known all about you use that information to set up a fake profile. “Public” is the default setting for Facebook profiles so your profile is public unless you changed it to private. I suggest you change it to private. Now.

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