What is the difference between these two people?
They are both called Georgina Lester. One is fake. One is real.
This reminds me of the scene in the Labyrinth in which Sarah arrives at two doors. One always tell lies, the other always tells the truth. One will take her to the castle at the end of the labyrinth which means that she can rescue her baby brother whilst the other leads to certain death. Question is how can she find out which is which?
Every day, without even realising it, we are being faced with this choice. How much do we take familiarity of a picture totally for granted? How certain can we be that what we see is actually what we think we see?
It is a conundrum and particularly crucial when considering our online identity especially if you want to keep your credibility and reputation intact. This particular impersonator contacted a friend promising her that she was going to receive a large sum of money. Fortunately she knows me well enough to realise that something was not right and called me immediately. What would have happened though if this person had got in touch with someone who doesn’t know me quite so well? What if they have done already?
I have of course reported this through the usual channels. I have also posted a warning in a few key places so that people are aware. I am lucky in that everyone has been amazingly supportive and I am getting a steady flow of messages from people reporting back to say that they have taken action.
So what would you feel if this happened to you? What would you do?
What do you look out for when you check to make sure that someone is really who they say they are? Do you check?
Update: Dealing with my Facebook impersonator (with help from friends)
With no less than some 200 messages in response to just a few postings on Facebook, several messages of support from the BlackStar network, many reports of people having blocked and marked the account as a fake, numerous personal emails and words of support, encouragement and understanding whilst not forgetting a whole hoard of willing volunteers who spied, investigated and detected what was really going on – this rapidly became one of those valuable moments of learning. I immediately wanted to record this so that others can be aware of other similar situations in the hope that they can prevent anyone falling victim to such despicable behaviour. My advice to anyone who experiences this …. DON’T PANIC!
Judging by some of the responses, many would. It is important to keep a cool head and stay calm. With a clear focus on finding the truth, we can logically and systematically study the evidence and assess just how critical the problem really is.
Questions I asked …
Has my own account been compromised?
Do I need to change my log in details? As I have an alert system on my Facebook account which tells me when someone tries to log in to my account from any other devices other than the ones registered, the answer was clearly no. It had not been compromised.
Have any other accounts been compromised? The fake merely contacted my friend through the FB online chat. There was no evidence to suggest that anything had happened to her or any other accounts. I could not see any evidence of any spam messages or postings which carry viruses or trojans so it looked likely that everyone else’s accounts were fine (at least at the moment!) Until I had a report back from others or had tangible evidence, I would assume that this was not an issue.
Who is at risk? I had to warn others that this person might be up to no good as quickly as possible. Posting on my wall, on my Fan pages, and in a couple of key groups in which I am relatively active meant that many people got to know that this had happened very quickly and could at least be aware should the faker get in touch. I contacted all the “mutual” friends to warn them swiftly followed by sending a message to all of his/her other friends to let them know that this was a fake account and to please be careful.
The reality …
In this instance the reality was that someone had copied my profile picture and attached my name to it on a new ‘fake’ profile. Judging by the chat conversation that my friend had, this was a precursor to a potential scam which up until the rising popularity of social media, would have traditionally arrived via email. How much quicker it must be for the scammers to identify their targets and quickly ascertain whether they can become their next mark or not.
Dealing with the fears …
There is a LOT of fear around identity theft. There were all sorts of suggestions about not only changing my log in details to my Facebook account but a whole host of other accounts too. It was also suggested that my financial details would have been compromised too and that I should even consider stopping my credit cards and alerting the banks. Some of the advice that I got, whilst very well meaning was completely off the scale in terms of being a complete over-reaction. yes there are some situations where it is possible for a much more serious reaction is completely appropriate and necessary but there is no point in extreme responses expending huge amounts of energy and feeling emotions unnecessarily. Panic gets us nowhere.
Some of the stories of other people’s experiences that were shared were enough to feed anyone’s fears. There are certainly some talented scam artists out there but I refuse to give my power over to them and be afraid of what they might do to me. Keeping calm is a much more effective way to get to the bottom of the issue and sorting out the problem.
Get help …..
Having a LOT of connections definitely has its advantages. Despite being a Sunday I had a whole army of people who jumped to my defense and made a very big song and dance about the issue. They know enough about me to recognise a fake when they see one so thankfully no harm was done but that might not have been the case if I had just tried to resolve this on my own. The sooner the word was out the better.
Through various friends, the account was reported and blocked numerous times, I had all sorts of information gleaned from the account to give me clues and evidence should it be needed. That involved finding out information that could only be discovered by being a friend, which of course I could not even attempt. Some of my connections are veritable investigative journalists who rapidly got stuck in playing detective giving me screenshots, inside information, links to informative articles (Nigerian Sweepstake Scam and Malaysian Sweepstake Scam), and so on. This did a vast amount to keep things on track and focus on what this scam was actually about. Thank you to all those who did a fantastic job of digging to find out the truth.
Keep your sense of humour …
Whatever happens, these incidences do not lead to losing life or limb. We had quite a bit of fun playing word games and talking about what my ‘evil twin’ had been and could get up to. My naughty streak definitely came out to play here scheming about all the pranks I could play knowing that I had a fake me to blame (with a giggle). My great friends were quick off the mark in joining in the fun too and having a laugh made dealing with the more arduous side of sorting things out pretty painless and easy.If this should ever happen to you, then a logical approach, systematically taking appropriate action – with the help of friends, connections and Facebook itself, the problem will always get sorted. If you can have a giggle along the way then so much the better.
The results ….
The outcome of this incidence not only gave me the opportunity to learn something new but through the BlackStar network, and the Connect.Me Trust Anchor network, I now have many more friends who have connected on Facebook than I had before. Better still, I have caught up with several friends with whom I have spoken in a while and had plenty of updates about their latest news and activities – which has been more than welcomed.
The irony of posting blogs about Trust recently and this incidence has highlighted just how valuable Trust is to us when connecting with people online. All in all, it has turned out well and proved useful in the process. Above all, the community of friends I have around me have yet again endorsed just how wonderful it is to be connected to other human beings who are more than willing to show support, love, compassion and understanding by stepping up to take action in a moment of need. I love that.