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Bloggers and social media users face identity theft and fraud

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In a time where millions of people share their lives on blogs and social media an online voucher website has looked into the risks associated with the social sharing of our lives. From fake Instagram accounts promoting other user’s photo’s as their own to bloggers whose website and social details have been used to obtain free goods fraudulently. The result’s showed a worrying trend which will only increase as people will share more and more online.

Investigating the rise of catfishing, (where someone creates a fictional online persona luring people into relationships), identity theft and fraud conducted online, MyVoucherCodes spoke to social media users and bloggers who had their lives hijacked by others. They looked at the effects this had on the users and what precautions they now take.

Exposed: 23% of social media users have had images used by someone else without permission

To find out how many people have been affected My Voucher Codes surveyed Instagram, Facebook and Twitter users and asked: “Have your own images or photographs being used by other people without your permission?” They found 23% had found their photo’s being used by other people without permission.

One woman who found someone who had set up a fake profile on Facebook with her photos is April Yau, one of her friends alerted her to the fake account of “Jennifer Chen” which featured images which were not public photos. They were using images in her albums, which were only visible to her friends, including one from when she was in hospital. At the time, when she reported the theft Facebook refused to take the profile down because they said: “This person is not violating the terms of service or the privacy conditions.”

It wasn’t until local media picked up the story that Facebook changed their tune and removed the profile, which featured many of April’s photos. You might be mistaken in thinking it was an oversight on the security settings, however April, who is an account manager with Vancouver’s 6S Marketing, understood the settings, only allowing her Facebook friends access to the images and in some cases only close family or friends.

Since then, April has received correspondence from someone else who claims they have been scammed for money by someone using this profile, however April is hesitant to respond, due to not knowing if this is also a scam or someone else looking for attention.

Bloggers who have identity stolen

Identity theft and fraud amongst bloggers is a big issue, many people rely on their blogs as their main source of income and even those who are hobbyists put time and money into running their blogs. However there are some people out there who take advantage of bloggers hard work by requesting products and services from brands by pretending to be the successful bloggers in question.

One such blogger who had fallen victim to this identity theft is Em from Em Talks who only discovered someone had been pretending to be her when she was tweeted and emailed by companies telling her, the products she had requested were on their way despite her never having contacted the companies herself.

One of the companies involved showed Em ‘her’ initial contact form. The form contained the correct blog and social media account details, but the email and delivery address did not belong to Em. She contacting the police and the fraud protection about this identity theft however is still waiting to hear back from them.

Another blogger caught out by online fraud is Gemma from My Mills Baby who found someone had been using her name and email to leave comments on other blogs as well as someone creating a fan page for My Mills Baby on Facebook adding Gemma as admin without her permission.

Unfortunately with all the online work bloggers deal with daily, they are also susceptible to other scams, Gemma was also a victim of a phishing scam (where users are sent emails looking to be from reputable companies, to get them to reveal personal information including passwords and credit card numbers), which saw her lose up to £300 through PayPal, fortunately her bank recouped the money lost. However the troubles didn’t stop there as her card was also cloned after she entered her details on to a professional-looking site.

Experienced catfishing first hand

Meg from Boring Capetown Chick would interview women in creative roles for a blog. One person she contacted claimed to be a poet and model, whose parents were dead and also claimed to be a deaf surfer. This person had used images of a UK based model which is when the catfishing and identity theft was uncovered, when the models agent contacted Meg to remove the images. The whole story then unravelled, leading to more people discovering they had also been catfished by this person.

Speaking about the online threats to bloggers and social media users Mark Pearson said:

“Many people make their livelihoods online now, with blogging becoming a popular full time job for many people. It’s a shame that there are those out there who want to take advantage of the hard work of others and pass off blogs or social media accounts as their own, to gain free products, items or payments from brands. This is identity theft and fraud, pure and simple.

“Our main concern is that cases such as these are on the increase, especially with the next generation being brought up believing its normal to share their life online that we see more lives ruined. It’s important for all social media users and bloggers to be aware of security options out there and keep an eye on what they share online.”

Photograph by Brian Rinker

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