What to do When Someone Uses Your Photos? Someone pretended to be me on Instagram with my pictures!
I just received an inquiry from a Dan James.
The message from a former colleague that afternoon left me perplexed yet flattered. Upon further review, I was able to confirm what I immediately suspected: someone was using my Face to catfish people on Instagram.
Why? I really can’t tell you. I mean, thanks, but dream big. I’m a nobody with a following that could break 1K, but is mediocre at best. Whatever plan Dan James had, he (or she or it – based on the bad grammar in the profile bio, this could very well be a spam bot), I’m not sure how the three photos I chose would help accomplish that .
Regardless, their plan was quickly foiled. After jokingly sending the pictures to a few friends and insisting that I had made it, Instagram moved faster than expected. Some reports stated that the profile was not what they said it was, bringing it to its knees and permanently deleting it from the social media platform.
But what else could I have done when I found out someone was using my face to fish others? Sure, I couldn’t exactly call Nev Schulman out, but I thought other measures could be taken in this case.
If you see someone using your pictures on social media, should you just ignore them?
The short and simple answer? Definitely not.
You might think, ‘Haters gonna hate, cheaters gonna cheat,’ but imagine someone with bad intentions walking around with your face and body interacting with people like you, Barrett says. It sounds like a science fiction movie, but it’s exactly what a catfish does. This poses a real risk to your reputation and can hurt others, depending on what the identity thief’s agenda is. They may try to date scam money, call women names, or engage in illegal porn – all like you. The potential consequences for you and others are too high to ignore.
What is the first thing to do?
Your first instinct might be to flag the account and block it as soon as possible, but before you do that, gather all the evidence you can – the link of the fake page, the handle, the email address, the location, the age, and screenshots of the stolen photos suggests. If you rattle the scammer before collecting this evidence, they may block you or hide their profile, making it harder to shut them down. Next, contact the platform or site host and file an identity change report. All reputable platforms have policies in place to delete fraudulent accounts. Just be prepared to verify your identity and have as much evidence as possible that someone is using your face.
What if the social media company doesn’t shut it down?
As long as you back up your statement (the message from your own profile is certainly solid proof), you should be fine.
It’s highly unlikely that a top social media company won’t create a fake profile, assuming you can verify who you are and prove that your face is being used fraudulently, Barrett notes. The investigation will likely take a few days, but from Tinder to Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, nearly every social media company follows policies to promptly remove fake accounts. It’s in their best interest to kill catfish.
Shouldn’t you / shouldn’t you reach out to the person directly?
While my experience with catfishing was relatively benign, others may not be so lucky. In some cases, Barrett suggests sending a cease and desist message to the scammer’s inbox.
My client had his dating app photos stolen, he says. A catfisher used his portraits, selfies and even childhood photos to become Fake Martin so he could call women names – calling them ‘bitches,’ ‘whores’ and the C-word. Typical toxic ugliness of the manosphere. His only goal was to get attractive women to write to him so he could spew venom at them.
Barrett’s client used a cease and desist template found on the internet and sent a version to the Catfisher via the app.
It’s a dual approach for maximum leverage: the platform acts on your behalf while you send a drone note demanding your images be removed, he continues. The scammer blocked Martin, but the guy was freaked out enough to get the pictures down. A few days later, the app ended its investigation and deleted the account.
According to Barrett, catfishers fear getting caught, so even the slightest serious warning is most likely enough to rattle them.
Aside from such a letter, I don’t recommend communicating in an interpersonal way with a scammer, he says. There’s no point in asking them why they did it or trying to get them to admit it. They’ll just dismiss everything or block you. To deal with this kind of person is to go down a deep, dark rabbit hole.
Can your friends do anything if they have been contacted?
Just like in my case, your friends can be the one to signal that someone is impersonating you on the Internet.
It’s a smart move to send your social circle a mass message telling them they may be hearing from a fake “you,” Barrett says. This protects your reputation, and if someone you know hears about the fraudulent account, you’ll have more evidence to make sure it’s shut down.
Are you asking who might have done it?
Why bother? It’s a sad, small, dishonest person of low integrity – probably someone you’ve never met and don’t want to know, he adds. It’s best to get this person out of your mind and out of your life as soon as possible.
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