Students fall victim to internet impersonations

Kaelyn Rodrigues | Staff Writer

When scrolling through Instagram, you see something different every time. But the last thing you expect to see is someone pretending to be you. 

This is a common occurrence for junior Josephine Sim, who has had multiple Instagram accounts pretend to be her by using her photos under a different name. Sim credits her diverse online presence as a reason people are able to find and use her images.

“It’s happened on multiple occasions because my photos are shared not only on Instagram, but on platforms like Tumblr and We Heart It,” Sim said. “Usually I find out if someone tells me, whether it be like a friend or someone random. The most instances have definitely been different Instagram accounts.” 

Though it has happened repeatedly, Sim said she is still concerned by the accounts that pose as her online. 

“The first time it happened I was definitely shocked, the fact that someone thought I was I guess pretty enough to impersonate, is kind of bizarre to me because I don’t think that way,” Sim said. “Compared to now, it’s definitely still a big deal to me because someone’s trying to impersonate you and use your face to be someone that is obviously not you.”

After finding accounts that use her photos as their own, Sim said she first contacts the owner and tries to get them to take their profile down. If they refuse to deactivate their account, Sim reports them.

“There’s nothing you can really do about it besides to say ‘hey I’m uncomfortable with this,’ but sometimes they have me blocked which is why they think they can get away with it,” Sim said. “If they don’t, I make an initiative to say ‘I don’t like it when people impersonate me,’ and they usually just block me and I report them. Sometimes people apologize because their intention isn’t to impersonate me for wrong reasons.”

When senior Claire Simmons found out photos from her Instagram were being used on a Tinder account under the name Reilly, she put a screenshot of the profile on her Instagram story, asking her followers how she should feel.

“I thought it was kind of funny, but I didn’t know whether to be mad or just to laugh about it, like was it a compliment or should I be mad?” Simmons said. “The more I thought about it, the more it kind of freaked me out that anyone could just take my picture and use a different name.”

With more than 13,000 followers on her public Instagram account, Simmons attributes her variety of easy to access pictures as a reason the Tinder account owner was able to impersonate her.

“My Instagram account isn’t private, so it’s easy to just go on it whether you follow me or not and take the picture,” Simmons said. “Since I post a lot of pictures, they have a selection to choose from so and can send more pictures of me to prove I’m really them.”

In junior Kabir Doshi’s case, he found out who was behind the Instagram account that was created using his photos. Doshi did not know the person behind the account, but some of his friends did, so they confronted the impersonator.

“They had some weird explanation for it and said their account got hacked or something, but then they changed the story and said that someone got on their phone and made the account,” Doshi said. “It made me realize that I probably have a lot of followers, but if I don’t know them, it’s kind of weird to let them see all my personal stuff.”

Though in many cases it is a stranger who makes these accounts, Freshman Maya Morjaria had a fake spam account pretending to be her on Instagram made by a former friend. Many of Morjaria’s friends were unaware that the account was not hers.

“We were friends for a while and he thought it would be funny to make an account with my name on it and pictures that he screenshotted,” Morjaria said. “One day someone sent me the account and I didn’t even know until the person sent it to me. He didn’t have my permission or anything and when I told him to delete the account he refused and kept saying it was funny and I deserved it.”

Morjaria said she was not bothered by the pictures so much as her impersonator contacting her friends who believed that the account was hers.

“The main reason I had a problem with it was because he followed a lot of my friends who didn’t know that it was him and everyone thought it was me,” Morjaria said. “My friends would text me and get offended, and I had to keep explaining that it wasn’t me.”

In a similar case, Sophomore Victoria Crowe’s friends mentioned to her a tweet that she supposedly had posted. After finding the fake profile made under her name, she expected to see inappropriate tweets but luckily found nothing more than innocuous posts.

“I was pretty shocked because I thought that would never happen to me,” Crowe said. “But then I started scrolling down and the tweets weren’t bad, they weren’t posting anything harmful to me. I was relieved to know that but at the same time, I was pretty scared to know that somebody had used my pictures and my name to create an account.”

Immediately, Crowe contacted Twitter in order to have the account deactivated. She said the experience made her more aware of who she allows to access her social media accounts.

“It definitely put me on the radar for people who request me on Instagram or Facebook to really know who they are determine if that’s somebody that I trust,” Crowe said. “My Instagram used to be public so anybody could scroll through my feed and screenshot my pictures so immediately I put my accounts on private because I just I didn’t want that to happen again.”

Cartoon by Ryan D’Souza.