Anyone who has ever clicked through my name on one of these articles will find the picture on the left slightly familiar. It's obviously me - I can tell you where I bought the suit I'm wearing and also the shirt. Only you'll also notice it's a LinkedIn page of one Roger Cramer. So, have you ever had your identity or image nicked..?
I've redacted the fake company name in case that's a genuine business, I don't want to defame anyone. And I want to add that once I'd alerted LinkedIn the offending page vanished in a couple of days. But there are things to be learned.
I discovered I'd been masquerading as Roger Cramer when a colleague approached me via Twitter with a link to Cramer's page. Initially I was quite chuffed; it's a form of identity theft but also a form of flattery. What was he publicising, I wondered - immaculate tailoring? Sexy underwear for blokes? How to be a best selling author?
It wasn't, of course. It was a front for a company claiming to sell healthcare management products. I assume my picture had been picked at random. I'm under no illusions about my looks - they needed 'average looking middle aged bloke' and that's what they found and used.
So if it's random this can happen to anyone, which is a little disturbing. The fact that he's on Twitter as well using my picture is even moreso. So, if it happens to you, what do you do?
The first thing is to get in touch with the people running the social network on which your fake is appearing. I used a LinkedIn form from the website to get in touch and object to my LinkedIn stalker (a number of people advised sending email to email@example.com, which just bounced back). LinkedIn took only a couple of days to take the picture down. I also approached Twitter at firstname.lastname@example.org - no reply as yet but I only found out the picture was there as well comparatively recently.
It's worth checking what to do next. The standard authority on identity fraud prevention and remedy in the UK is Cifas (click here
for its website). It offers the usual wisdom about not using websites that ask for your personal details on public WiFi, and limiting the amount of personal information you put on social networking sites (how many of you have put your date of birth and parents' names on Facebook? Now how easy would it be to steal your identity using that information?)
It advises responding promptly to anyone who contacts you about an account you don't hold, particularly if they're official like a debt collector. It advises contacting the credit reference agencies too. It also runs an accreditation scheme for your ID for an extra layer of protection.
Not much of this applies in my case. The reason is simple: it's my image that has been stolen. Roger Cramer, if indeed he exists, isn't trying to get at my money (although he may be after yours). He's not using my name, he's not even trying to pretend he's from the same country. No doubt Twitter will take the picture down and there will be no harm done.
But like the women who find their pictures have been used in come-ons for services (or to bulk out 'I can get you 1000 followers' scams) when they've been clipped from somewhere else - I do feel a little used.
Have you found your picture used in inappropriate ways on the web? Let us know in the comments.
- 1. Land banking
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.</p>
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme</p>
- 2. Money mule
Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.</p>
The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.</p>
- 3. Carbon credit fraud
The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.</p>
A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense</p>
- 4. HMRC phishing scam
Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.</p>
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.</p>
- 5. Disappearing loan scam
This scam targets vulnerable people who are in financial difficulty and unable to access credit through regular channels like overdrafts and credit cards.</p>
The fraudsters advertise loans and those that sign up are asked to pay an upfront 'arrangement' fee of around £60-£70 fee before the loan is approved. Borrowers pay the fee only for the 'loan providers' to disappear without a trace.</p>
- 6. Crash for cash scams
Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.</p>
They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.</p>
- 7. Driving school scams
Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.</p>
- 8. One man mail scam
July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.</p>
- 9. Smart meter scam
The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.</p>
The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.</p>
- 10. Thermal camera fraud
Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.</p>