lies

That time my photos were used by a Catfish: My experience with online deception

I could see the headlines now,  “Canadian nobody lures London woman to her death in mistaken identity sex trap”

A little wordy, but fitting.

On Tuesday evening I received the following message via Instagram,

Hey! I hope you’re okay. So random- I came across your Twitter profile because of the bachelor and realised I noticed you from somewhere

I had just arrived home after a long day of travel and was aching for my bed. I brushed off the message as a scam, and thought some hacker was trying to get me to follow a link to a virus and carried about my plans to turn in early.  Then I received another message…
I think that someone’s using your pics with ur blonde friend on a threesome website here in London! (Don’t judge me for using it lol) But I saw you live in Canada…So yeah thought I should let you know!” 
My stomach dropped. Ever the wordsmith, I typed my reply, ” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. Is this for real?!? Random yes. But…Really?!?”
I frantically paced back and forth while waiting for proof that I was being used in some kind of 50 shades of Grey meets Catfish type scenario. Within minutes, my online soothsaying  guardian angel provided a screen cap of an online profile with several of my personal photos under the username “AmyJo.”
AmyJo.png
I couldn’t contain my laughter.
I say a lot of dumb shit. I’m constantly joking about diabetes being the ultimate diet, about my plans to start an online dating site called Daddy Issues for children of divorce, and most recently, while watching an episode of Catfish on MTV, I declared that the ultimate validation of my looks would be to have someone use my photos to Catfish another person.
I giggled to myself while musing on the way the universe works. Just my luck. The universe doesn’t listen to me when I say, “I want to marry Jake Gyllenhaal” or “I wish I won the lottery.”   No. That would be TOO good. This is the one thing the universe picks up and brings into fruition.
I was flattered for a good two minutes, before I burst into tears. I looked at the photos that were being used and realized they came from my blog. I immediately blamed myself for being foolish and sharing my personal life on the internet. My knee-jerk reaction was to delete everything and live off the grid, off the land, in a Podunk town in Iowa. I felt exposed, vulnerable, stupid, angry… the whole spectrum of emotions.
giphy (8).gif
Then, I stepped outside of myself and my feelings and thought about the people who thought they were talking to  “me” online. The fact that someone used my photos to make an online dating profile is one thing, but the sexual component to the site introduced an entirely new set of concerns. I’m all for people doing what they want to do sexually, but  hours of Dateline and Law and Order episodes immediately brought the worst case scenario into play. I would hope that anyone using ANY kind of online dating site would arrange to meet in public first, but I was worried someone would arrange to meet with “me” and be in danger when they discovered little ol’ AmyJo is not who she appeared to be. I couldn’t bear the thought that someone could get hurt physically or emotionally because of this fake profile.
I immediately contacted the site about their user, but 12 hours later I still hadn’t received a response. Taking matters into my own hands, I joined the site and sent AmyJo a message to stop using my photos because the jig was up!
AmyJo2.png
The next day I received a response from the site that the user had been deleted, and they gave their apologies.
Whatever.
I decided it was best to see if any of my photos were being used online, and ran several Google image searches uploading my images into the search engine as well as the image location. (For more information on how to run these searches, click here).  Nothing out of the ordinary turned up.
The problem with sites like LikeThree, is that they require you to sign up in order to access user profiles. This means, no Google search would detect that your images are being used. It would be up to the users of the site to save an image, and then complete a search to see if the user in question, is in fact, who they say they are.  Had it not been for Twitter and the #TheBachelor hashtag, I would never have known that my images were being used for a fake profile. The scary thing is, I don’t know if they’ll be used AGAIN or where else they’ll appear.
There are all kinds of crazies in the world – all kinds of people with ulterior motives looking online for images to steal. There are ways you can protect your images (watermarks for example) but how much of what we do, create and upload is at the mercy of the ethics and morals of other users?  With an open Instagram, Twitter and WordPress, should I really be surprised that my images were stolen?
giphy (9).gif
These questions have been swirling around in my mind for the past few days, and I still feel strangely vulnerable even after everything’s been taken care of (to my knowledge). Even though the real issue is with the people who are stealing these images,  I’m not sure there will ever be a way to ensure people stop creating fake accounts and profiles. Unfortunately, we can only practice safety and caution when meeting and talking to people online.
Click here for more details on safe online dating practices.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to the person who came forward about this deception, and I’m glad they’re safe and caught AmyJo in these lies. My friends have been really great about the ordeal, sharing in my fears as well as doing their best to make me laugh. It’s been decided that if ever I do something out of the ordinary, a little risque or out of character, I will be affectionately dubbed “AmyJo.”
enhanced-3809-1411653730-13.jpg

No, it’s AmyJo

Has this ever happened to you? Have you or anyone you know been the victim of a Catfish?
Tell me!

 

Advertisements