Have you ever found a picture of yourself as someone else’s display picture on Facebook?
Or has someone ever catfished you by setting up a fake account?
It has been announced that individuals who create fake profiles online could face criminal charges as part of a plan currently being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service within England and Wales, and about time too.
Online harassment is no joke.
The way people present themselves online is often very different to how they might behave towards people in the real world. Using fake accounts can give people a sense of anonymity.
A bit like Tom Hardy in a GCSE acting class, users can mould themselves into new and extravagant characters or exaggerated versions of themselves in the world of social media. At first it may seem like an exiting concept, to become a new person in a click of a mouse button. But this online behaviour can quickly get out of hand and lead to a world wide web of lies.
When I was in high school, it wasn’t unusual for people to create fake Facebook accounts. Many create these alternative personas for the most innocent of reasons. Maybe they’ve created another account to find out if their partners are cheating? They may have even faked another person in order to a find online popularity?
But the majority of the time, these accounts are set up to wreck havoc on people’s lives.
There has been a rise in what many people refer to as ‘Facebook stalking’.
A study by the University of Western Ontario published in 2012 found that 88 per cent of heartbroken lovers admitted to spying on there ex’s online.
But some people have been known to take this one step further, creating fake accounts to harass their ex partner or even in some cases, create fraudulent Facebook accounts pretending to be them in order to create malicious and hurtful rumours.
If you’ve ever watched Catfish on MTV, you’ll also know that people create fake accounts to trick people into transferring money, stealing personal details or even just to hide their own insecurity, creating relationships with people behind masks out of fear they may not be accepted as themselves. That I can understand. But it’s still a destructive and ultimately immoral way of gaining someone’s trust that can lead to heartache, anxiety and now a potential prison sentence for the perpetrator.
I’ve created some tips to help yourself stay safe online and help you identify potential ‘fakebook’ users.
Google search their Facebook display picture
You can do this by clicking on Google images and dragging the display picture into the search engine. This will bring up similar images, allowing you to see if the image has been used on other social media sites and whom the image originally belongs to if it is a catfish. You can also Google search your own display picture to check if anyone is using your identity to catfish others.
Don’t share personal information online.
Regardless of how much you think you ‘know’ someone, do not share your personally information with anybody online. I’ve known or heard of people who have been the victims of identity fraud or even sent money to people who have turned out to be fraudsters. You wouldn’t hand your details to a stranger on the street, so why do it online?
Look for telltale signs of a fake.
Very little Facebook friends, only a few images of themselves online and very little interaction on their Facebook wall could be small signs that you’re talking to an imposter. This isn’t to say that clever catfish won’t make their accounts more convincing by adding this information (watch Catfish the movie) but they often won’t have the resources to create hundreds of separate fake accounts or interact with themselves.
Don’t accept friend requests from any Tom, Dick or Harry
Unless that’s their names… obviously.
If you think someone is catfishing you are or you are being harassed online, report it. You can do this by reporting it straight through the social media account you are using or by contacting an organisation for further advice such as Citizens Advice UK.
Have you been harassed online?