No I do not have a twin!!!!!!
December 3, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with fake profiles of myself showing up all over the internet?

First of all I hope I don't offend or upset anyone just by posting this question. During the last five years fake profiles of someone using my name and pictures have been popping up in almost all dating and social networking sites. Initially I tried my best to brush it off and not pay attention to it but I understand that as the internet grows this may become an issue for me one way or the other. In addition, during the last couple of months a lot of people that this person has connected with have reached out to me wondering why we've never met.....

Whoever is using my pictures apparently is even more successful than I ever was at dating or clicking with strangers on the internet. As many as 5 different folks have stopped me in the train or have contacted me through Facebook in the last two weeks. The profiles apparently were set-up in PlentyofFish and in Adam4Adam. The pictures are mostly from my days as a model/singer and could easily be acquired by going to my website. My questions are:

1) Should I spend time and effort with the administrators of said websites trying to get these profiles removed? The fact that the frequency in which unknown people coming up to me is increasing leads me to believe that this is the way to go.

2) Would the behavior of these individuals affect me somehow? I am now a private individual who works in the very conservative financial world and may also be doing a job search. I am concerned that this may affect me if a company does a background search on me.

3) On a personal level, I am not sure how to handle the people that reach out to me. The fact is these persons genuinely feel as if they know me and there's a weird mixture of me feeling sorry AND mad at them. Also being straight it feels very weird having random messages from guys who are mad at whoever was using my likeness do I deal with this?
posted by The1andonly to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried contacting the person putting up the profile and asking them to remove it?
posted by fatbird at 12:13 PM on December 3, 2010

Should I spend time and effort with the administrators of said websites trying to get these profiles removed?

You should probably at least call / email their customer service staff and explain your issue; I imagine they have had to deal with it before.

Given the fact that they are using both your pictures AND your name, do you think there's any possibility it could be a stalker or a jealous ex or something? I don't mean to freak you out if that's a remote possibility, but think about whether there's anyone from your past who you think could be doing this. If so, articulate that concern to the various customer service folks when you contact them.
posted by rkent at 12:14 PM on December 3, 2010

Are you in the US? Have you filed your photos with the US copyright office? You can do it online (but it does cost $ per photo). Once the photos are registered as owned and copyrighted by you, it's easy to fill out and send a cease and desist letter to any and all offenders. The response is right quick!

It's *definitely* worth doing. Photos on the internet have a way of propagating and exploding into Katamari Damacy sized balls of misery.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:21 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

A) Create a boilerplate message to profile hosts that, in addition to a polite explanation of what's going on, includes all the formal language of a DMCA takedown notice, just to save a step. Yes, your photos of yourself are your copyrighted material, or the copyrighted material of the photographer who took them, depending on what contractual agreements you made at the time of the photoshoot--you don't need to file any paperwork on that unless you are suing for monetary damages (presuming both you and the profile hosts are in the US). US copyright law (unlike trademark and patent law) presumes inherent copyright; filing is only a requirement to receive financial compensation.

B) Create a boilerplate message to love-seekers that you didn't post the ad in question, that it is part of a prank someone is playing on you, and that you are sorry they wasted their time on responding to the fake. Wish them well in their search. After that, block their email addresses so you don't have to worry about how they responded to your boilerplate message.

Then it just becomes a matter of "Send the regular letter" and you don't have to agonize about what to do in each situation. Once you reduce the problem to "continuing to manage an annoying and childish prank" it will feel more manageable.

I'd also take all the photos down from my website for a few months. Eventually, this douchebag will find someone else to get off on impersonating. Sorry this happened to you!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:30 PM on December 3, 2010 [10 favorites]

Why not just report it as an identity theft? Then use whatever legal means open up as a result of that to find the perpetrator and get him/her/it to stop? You can also do this through the court system to subpoena records from the dating sites and the poster's ISP to discover him or her. Or hire a private investigator.

Rather than putting out fires each time, you might be better off catching the culprit. Also, that may give you an explanation in case this starts to cause problems with your employment from which you might never recover.
posted by Hylas at 12:34 PM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Not sure how successful this ploy is, but some folks put watermarks on their photos that point back to the 'original' photo's website... when people go there you put up a message saying something to the effect that "I only post my pics on THIS website - any pics you see elsewhere are from someone using my pictures without my permission".
posted by matty at 12:37 PM on December 3, 2010

Someone is specifically impersonating you. This isn't just some jerkoff hiding behind a pretty face taken from the internet. It's been going on for five years. People are coming up to you in person.

Get a lawyer.
posted by clorox at 1:09 PM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

Are you sure it's the same person? Your picture might have gotten into some kind of picture collection that different people are stealing your picture from.
posted by empath at 1:09 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the profiles are using both your photos AND your name, then someone is intentionally messing with you, or trying to sabotage you (and for all you know, has already succeeded)

Yes, this behavour is something that could be the non-personal work of bots, but I've never heard of bots-created fake profiles that use the correct name and photos of a real person.

I'm inclined to think you have an enemy.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:23 PM on December 3, 2010

Response by poster: I am definitely not sure if this is one person or multiple people......From what I can gather I have the feeling that a girl is writing to other girls AND that a gay man is using the adam4adam account....Of course maybe I'll never know so this is just a guess.

Thank you for the suggestions so far. I am considering a combination of watermarking the pictures, contacting administrators, and also those persons using my pictures without permission (and for that I would have to sign up to said websites) well as actively monitoring internet activities of those with my pictures.

It has gotten to a very scary point at this person(s) even has an E-mail address with my name and I feel like he/she is taunting me as they recently signed up to my e-mail list.....I am also considering the legal route but this may be costly so I will see what other mefites think.

Finally, at this point I am not sure that it is an option to totally remove ALL pictures as I use the website to sell music and even though I havent released anything in two years.. people still buy songs from time to time.
posted by The1andonly at 1:26 PM on December 3, 2010

Seconding clorox. The fact that you've been ok with this for five years is very weird. Pics often get stolen and used as bait on dating sites, but almost never with the same name. The pic usage is secondary to them using your name.

You should spend some serious time finding out who this is and filing identity theft charges against them. Otherwise it will look like you are a closeted gay dude with a hokey cover story when someone googles your name.
posted by benzenedream at 1:27 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

IANAL. Since you are or were a "model/singer", you could probably make a case that the person in question has harmed your reputation and/or impacted your ability make a living. And appropriated your image for gain. You could probably easily get a court order to compel one of those site to tell you who is using you pix, and then you could go after them in a civil court. You'd be able to make sure they never did it again, and if it ever came up, you could point to a court settlement that absolves you. Costs money and time, of course, but you'd likely be able to get them to pay for that.
posted by kjs3 at 1:29 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also one more thing my name is very generic and the profiles are very generic versions of me. So they go something like:

Random information not specifically about me, but about what they are looking for....

Also if it matters this person has never contacted me directly, I always find out through OTHER people...
posted by The1andonly at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2010

contacting [. . .] those persons using my pictures without permission (and for that I would have to sign up to said websites) well as actively monitoring internet activities of those with my pictures.

Don't do this. Please, get a lawyer. I see a lot of fake personals ads and profiles, and they always fall into one of three categories: Hookers, spammers, or horny guys pretending they're something they're not. This does not sound at all like the first two -- where's the money in impersonating you? In convincing people that there's a possibility of a real-life relationship? If it's the third then it's gone waaaaaay too far, and for waaaaaay too long.

Everything you're said just screams out to me that you are being fucked with. And whoever's doing it is ramping up the intensity. Of course I can't prove it, but I would be shocked if it was something impersonal or widespread. Unless you're much more recognizable that you let on, something bad is going on here.

Don't reply to any e-mails (save them, though), don't send any messages, and don't talk to strangers on the subway (keep notes of the incidents, maybe) until you talk to a lawyer. Police, too, maybe. But lawyer first.

(One thing you can do now: Check out a couple of those pictures on TinEye, see where they pop up. Might give you some hints. And sorry for being so alarmist, but if I'm right then it's some serious shit.)
posted by clorox at 2:01 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why not visit the police station w/ copies of the dating site profiles and documentation about the email address and how he/she/they signed up for your email list just to see what they say?

I think this is criminal fraud or criminal identity theft or criminal harassment.

Something very very weird IS happening. It's possibly dangerous for you in many ways that random folks are approaching you in real life and are angry with you. You need to take this very seriously.

BTW, do you have any of the victim's contact info? Make sure the police can contact a few of these victims. Hell, one of them might even want to file an official report, too!

You really need to let the police sort this out. There are new laws against cyber stalking and cyber identity theft, and you are exactly the type of person these laws were created to protect.

PS. You come off as either a little naive or maybe reticent to deal with this very serious situation. Why??

Your personal safety could be at risk. Your reputation is already damaged in some ways. This isn't about some random association between pictures of you and your name - the dating site profiles list your occupation as model/singer, too. Someone is pretending to be YOU. People in your town are approaching you on the street because of these dating site profiles. I mean, wow. Just. Wow. You know, you're not talking about some kid in China using your email to send spam. This is at a far different level. This is happening where you live and work, it's spilling off the internet into your Real Life.

Sorry for the rant. It's just I have the feeling it's way past time for you to get proactive about all

(Upon preview - I'm with clorox on this!)
posted by jbenben at 2:11 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

This might well be linked to a Nigerian Romance scam, as people perpetuating those often use stolen images to set up profiles on dating websites in order to lure in potential victims. If that's the case, it's less likely that it's a single person using your image than that your image has somehow become part of a collection of frequently used images.

This will be much harder to stop in general, but might be easier to stop in each case, as you can simply contact the site hosting the profile and let them know you think your image is being used fraudulently. It's in their best interests to get scammy profiles off their sites.
posted by dizziest at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the info is generic and the name is not unique to you, I doubt this is someone impersonating you as some sort of cmpaign of intent. I am going to guess your photos rank highly on Google for a generic but related search like "cute musician dudes" or something, and are being lifted by people wanting to create tester, alter ego or cheating profiles on dating sites.

If the information is generic, all you really care about is that your photo be removed. The absolute first step you need to take is the previously mentioned DMCA takedown request. We files lots of these and have 99.8% batting average with this tactic. They do exactly what they are designed to do.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:06 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Finally, at this point I am not sure that it is an option to totally remove ALL pictures as I use the website to sell music and even though I havent released anything in two years.. people still buy songs from time to time.

Take the pictures down. Put up cute pictures of puppies or something instead, and explain in a pleasant, jokey way that someone or someone(s) has been using your picture and info as (what you hope is) a prank, and so you hope they'll still buy your records.

This has the added advantage of turning up in a Google search long before anybody's dating profile that has your name on it.

Fix the problem for now, and then deal with finding out who is doing it. My guess is that it's more than one person who's using "random cute guy"'s photo for dating sites (many people I know including me have had their photos copied onto dating sites by other people), but if you want it to stop happening you have to be proactive.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:42 PM on December 3, 2010

I agree. this sounds personal, you know?

When I was in college, I did some bikini modeling type stuff. Around then, an acquaintance contacted me on MySpace (c'mon, it was 2004) and told me she'd seen my photos on some social networking site I'd never even heard of. But it wasn't just a profile. My impersonator had an elaborate, community-supported online relationship with some guy. They were even "married" (virtually), and she was supposed to fly out to meet him in the next month -- to become a "new mother" to his little boy. What topped off the sad creepy weirdness were all the photoshopped images of ME plus this guy. Like, a dozen of them. The site's administrator took down the profile as soon as I emailed him/her. Of course I checked back afterward, and it was unsettling to see comments from the guy, and his online friends, all bashing the site for coming between him and Emily.

But my name isn't Emily. And nothing about Emily has anything to do with me -- the real me. Which is why this whole years-long persona-stalking you've described rings even more alarm bells.
posted by changeling at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2010

ESPECIALLY this: I feel like he/she is taunting me as they recently signed up to my e-mail list. that's personal. they're aware of you as a real person, not just the anonymous subject of some random musician photos they found on Google Images.
posted by changeling at 4:57 PM on December 3, 2010

Would the behavior of these individuals affect me somehow? I am now a private individual who works in the very conservative financial world and may also be doing a job search. I am concerned that this may affect me if a company does a background search on me.

I'd be more worried about this happening NOT by accident. The person who is doing this knows you (or at least knows of you). If they're someone at your firm, or they have some kind of grudge, they can mention to your boss (or your boss's boss) that the internet reveals that you're hiding the fact that you're gay and promiscuous.

You would never hear about it. You would never know about it. That kind of talk is not "on the record" and not repeated. Yet it may be the end of promotions for you at your firm. Your career halted.

This scenario might have already happened. How would you know?

Take it seriously.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:13 PM on December 3, 2010

There are no laws protecting you. It's that simple. My daughter-in-law crafted a scheme out of a nightmare, pretending to be my (second) son, courting women from all over the country. She did this for years, with women showing up at my door knowing who I was, my grandchildren's names, where I was born and worse-that I lived alone. I collected packages sent to me from all over with photos, letters, emails and pages of documentation, went to the police department and they said there was absolutely nothing they could or would do. Additionally, throughout the past 10 years she has been doing this, I've called the FBI, a local PI and every other means to get her to stop...nothing! The son that was impersonated is in the military (elite forces no less, can you say compromised????) and even the JAG got involved...NOTHING! She is still doing this, women are flying from Alaska to the east coast, ostensibly to meet 'him'. I know it's frustrating, but going to a lawyer is a big fat waste of time, our family has been fighting this for a decade. You know, I gotta say you don't sound very kick ass about stopping this.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 6:44 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

« Older Help with a new nook   |   Yarn substitution Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.