Friday, November 12, 2010

Ms. Real Deal

Ms. Joy,

This is so crazy I don’t know where to begin. I have some crazy person online pretending to be me. I’m a singer/songwriter/dj with a lot of famous friends. I travel and gig internationally. I do photo shoots for magazines and TV interviews where I can. I’m working extremely hard for everything I’m accomplishing.

Like everyone else on the planet, I use Facebook and Twitter, but I have both pages protected. I didn’t want everyone to have access to me. I really just want both sites to be for my friends, family, and close supporters.

About 3 weeks ago, someone got a Facebook page under my name, well, sort of. They spelled my first name wrong but the profile picture they’re using is from my bio on my website. They’re sending Facebook friend requests and emails to my celebrity friends, claiming to be me and saying that I lost their cell number. Now this person is on Twitter, too!

I don’t know what they want. Is this an attempt to destroy my reputation? Are they trying to cipher off my career? I’ve heard about this sort of thing before and people stealing other people’s identities to get gigs overseas. How can I protect my name and my work from this craziness?

― The Real Deal

Ms. Real Deal,

Identity theft and cyber-impersonation really gets me riled up. In the south, we describe this level of anger as being .38 hot! The problem is neither legislature nor the law have caught up with this type of foolishness. Once you put something online, you lose a lot of control about what people do with that material. Photos, music, content, and everything else you can imagine is constantly stolen online. There are some steps you can take to protect your reputation, but control will always be an issue. A method you can implement is what I call the Triple A technique: Assess, Acquire, and Assert.

First, you need to examine the situation and figure out how insidious the impersonation is. Do a Google and Bing search and see if your name is popping up in weird places or attached to events you know nothing about. See if the liar has a website under your name or is strictly on social media. If they got a website, you could try to acquire their true contact information through it. If they are only on social media, you’ll have to alert the proper contacts at those sites about their false representation.

Once you’re done assessing the problem, you can start to acquire what you need to regain as much control as you can. One thing you might want to get is an attorney (another “A” word) but, meanwhile, you can start to acquire variations on your name or brands. Go to, a free online resource that lets you get what usernames are available on all social media sites from stumbleupon to youtube. Get the various versions of your username that are still available so no one can easily name-jack you.

Since your predator has already gotten a fake and misspelled username on Twitter and Facebook, see if you can acquire the Google Adwords for that misspelled name. Google Adwords let you pay per click. You can have the Adwords come up every time someone searches that misspelled name and have the ad direct them to you instead. All of this acquisition- the usernames and adwords- can be done within an hour.

Lastly, you need to assert that you are the real deal and that the other person is a perpetrator. I advise you to acquire before you assert because you never want to forewarn an impostor that you’re coming for them. Those were the scenes that I always hated in Lifetime movies. Don’t show your hand before you assert.

Once you assert, go full steam ahead! Have your attorney send cease and desist letters to the culprit and contact the appropriate social media executives. Alert your friends and supporters through private communication such as email or by phone that an impostor is on the loose. Tell them exactly what usernames your impersonator is using so that they know not to communicate with the liar.

If the impostor has fraudulently attached you to events or placed your name in weird associations, contact the appropriate people concerned and clarify the situation.

You may never gain total control again, but these steps will help you diffuse some of the lies.

Keep rising!


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