MIAMI (CBS4) — On Facebook, you tell people where you work, live, play and who you date. Or if you’re single, where you went to college and where you like to eat and what your hobbies are.
If someone is looking to impersonate you, you could be potentially handing them the blueprint to your life and make it easy for them to cyber-stalk you or worse.
Connecting with old friends, family and work colleagues and schoolmates is part of the charm of social networking but what about the downside?
Kelly Quigley is a mom and not a fan of social networks. Last year, this protective mom found out that someone created a fake Facebook profile of her then 12-year-old daughter. They used her daughter’s image and posted comments she never made.
“They had what I was interested in, what school I went to, said Casey Quigley. “My information was out there. It was just kinda weird, like why would they do that?”
The Quigley’s tried repeatedly to report the imposter to Facebook but they say they never received a response.
“I tried to call them, we sent them letters, I created a profile myself,” said Kelly. “I did everything in my power to contact Facebook but you can’t get a live person. We considered flying out there to visit, that was going to be our next step.”
Symantec, an Internet security firm, wants to rid the net of all hackers and cyber-stalkers but even they admit it’s not easy to get rid of the fakes and phonies.
“Fake accounts are easy to make,” said Symantic’s Marian Merritt. “All you need is a legitimate e-mail address.”
Merritt says cyber-impersonation is a growing problem on social networking sites.
“I can gather information and images of you, photos of you from other legitimate sites and combine them together on a fake profile,” said Merritt. “It tricks your friends, your business contacts, your relatives, all into believing this is a legitimate site.”
Symantic hasn’t been able to track fake profiles because legally it’s up to social networking sites to take down profiles created by imposters.
Recently, California adopted the criminal e-personation law, created by Senator Joe Simitian. Anyone there caught pretending to be someone else online will face a $1,000 fine, civil penalties and jail time. Other states, including New York and Texas have similar laws. Florida does not currently have an e-personation law.
So what do you do if someone is pretending to be you?
• Set up an automated alert with a search engine. You’ll know when someone creates a new account in your name.
• Do a search manually. Put in your name and see what comes up.
• Use your privacy settings to the best of your ability. Limit the opportunity for others to compromise your privacy.
Nine months after Casey Quigley’s fake profile was created Facebook finally took it down. The company is promising to install new systems to improve safety and security.