A friend of mine recently said she was surprised by one of my Facebook posts. I don’t have a Facebook page, so I couldn’t understand what she was talking about. She opened her account and showed me a page that had been created in my name with my photo and other personal information and had connected with several of my friends. How can I shut it down?
Attorney Cheryl Gill knows personally how frustrating it is to have someone pretending to be you online—it happened to her on Facebook, too.
“Somehow they hacked into my account and got the list of all of my Facebook friends and were making friend requests. Somebody accepted a friend request who was already my friend,” she said. “I went online and reported someone was imitating me and it was taken care of. I also warned all my friends not to accept a friend request from me.”
The difficulty is an impersonation could go on for months or someone could use your identifiable information for all kinds of sordid things and damage your reputation.
It doesn’t just happen on Facebook. Reports have been made of impersonations on Twitter, Instagram and other social media.
Gill suggests going to the social medium where the problems occur and looking for how it can be reported.
Twitter describes impersonation a violation of its rules which state “Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter impersonation policy.” However, just having the same name as you is not enough to boot the other person out. “In order to be impersonation, the account must also portray another person in a misleading or deceptive manner.” Twitter offers instructions for reporting impersonation.
Facebook’s rules say “Fake accounts created to imitate real people (impostor profiles) are not allowed on Facebook. If someone created an account pretending to be one of your friends or a public figure, request to remove it.” Facebook also provides instructions for reporting it.
For Instagram, the rules are similar. “Instagram takes safety seriously. If someone created an Instagram account pretending to be you, please report it to us and make sure to provide all of the requested info, including a photo of your government-issued ID.”
“Social media will correct these problems,” Gill said, “if they are made aware of them. Check the help site for the social media you use for instructions.”
Information provided by Cheryl Gill, Attorney, Johns, Flaherty & Collins, Inc. For a criminal defense lawyer, call her at 608-784-5678.