I can always tell by my parents’ tones that I’m in trouble. When I hear that tone of anger, I usually remember my wrong doing and prepare to defend myself for that action.
The other day, my parents used the “angry tone,” but I couldn’t think of anything that I had done wrong. My parents started their lecture with the standard, “We just care about you and wouldn’t want anything to happen to you…” but I was shocked when my mother continued to say “and we really don’t approve of the things that you’ve been posting about yourself on the Internet. A lot of people can see that stuff and the things that you’re posting could affect your college acceptance, your future jobs, lots of things.”
This puzzled me, because I work at the YMCA, and I would never post anything on the Internet that would put my job into jeopardy, so my parents’ concerns made no sense.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know what we’re talking about,” my dad scolded. “So once I show you, don’t deny it.”
My dad proceeded to pull up a profile on a social networking site called MyYearbook.com. The profile displayed dozens of pictures of me, all of which were previously posted on my Facebook page. The profile also displayed my name and showed hundreds of updates that I supposedly posted. The profile also boasted 342 friends, most of which were middle-aged men.
I was infuriated. How could someone pretend to be me? Post my pictures as their own? Befriend these older men? Use my name?
After coming down from my angry rage, I closely inspected the site, noticing that most of the posts on the site were posted from an iPhone. I’m not lucky enough to own such advanced technology, so after pointing this out to my parents, they realized that I wasn’t the one responsible for the site, but a victim of identity theft.
I was mad, scared, and ultimately creeped out. The site looked to be created to sabotage me, for the earlier posts contained sexually explicit statements, eliciting various responses from my “friends.” But the more recent posts almost seemed like things that I would say; it was almost as if the site’s creator actually started to believe that he or she were me.
My parents and I reported the site to the MyYearbook officials in order to get it taken down as soon as possible. The procedure called for a picture of me holding a piece of paper, stating that I am the real Katy Huis, and the page did not belong to me.
I wanted to figure out who was responsible for creating the site, mostly out of curiosity, but partly because I wanted to confront the perpetrator that stole my identity. Unfortunately, because of privacy issues, the people at MyYearbook could not legally disclose the personal information behind the site.
Since the site was taken down, I feel safer and less creeped out, but the fact that it happened at all is incredibly spooky. Today’s technology makes mishaps like this painstakingly easy to happen. There is nothing concrete to stop troubled people from pretending to be someone else, but after learning that something like this could actually happen to someone like me, I started to take other precautions.
One website, Google Alerts, can be very helpful in preventing Internet crimes such as identity theft. After making an account on the website, Google Alerts will send the user an email whenever the user’s name appears online. With an account on this website, I’ll be the first to know if anymore imposter sites are created.
After creating an account on Google Alerts, I started to clean up my Facebook, deleting a good majority of my so called “Facebook friends.” Since all the pictures on the MyYearbook site came from my Facebook page, whoever created the site was my Facebook friend, granting them access to all of my pictures and information.
Most people have hundreds of Facebook friends, but it’s debatable how many of these people are actually friends outside of the social networking site. The best idea to prevent online identity theft is to go through your friends list and remove all of those who can’t actually be called friends.
After taking precautions such as these, I can only hope that such an incident could never happen again. In our time, it’s hard to avoid the social aspects of technology. There’s no crime in having a Facebook to keep in touch with old friends and make new ones, but it’s important to be careful with whom to trust as an online friend.