DMCA Protection8 MIN READ

Social Media Nightmare: What is Impersonation?

Elchin KayaContent creator at Rulta

What Is Impersonation?

Impersonation is when a person creates a false identity on social networking platforms for a malicious gain. They may completely fabricate a persona or steal your online presence altogether, by swiping your photos and personal information. Usually, the imposter uses this fake identity with the incentive of scamming others, or ruining your reputation. This is incredibly anxiety-inducing, especially in this modern age of technology.
The Cyber Security Authority disclosed that there was a surge in online impersonation in June 2022. The Authority released a statement claiming that online impersonation is a major threat that assumes a significant portion of fraudulent online activities: “the unrestricted nature of social media account registration process grants all users the ability to assume any identity. This has emboldened scammers.”

Why Is It Called Impersonation?

Online impersonation has existed since the dawn of the internet simply because of how easy it is to pretend to be someone you are not. The word ‘impersonate’ comes from the Latin ‘in-’ and ‘persona’, meaning “to invest with a personality”. You may also have heard the term ‘catfishing’ which basically means the same thing: pretending to be someone you are not, on the internet.

How Does Impersonation Relate To Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying involves the use of a cell phone, computer, or tablet to engage in unwanted and aggressive behaviors towards others. There are a number of ways an imposter may cause harm: they might lure their victim into establishing a deceptive relationship with the aim of gathering their personal information, or they may bully their target into doing social or financial favours for them. Maybe they are feeling lonely and ashamed to use their own online presence and therefore chose to imitate you. Whatever the reason is, impersonation is a cyber crime and must be treated as such.
A common cyber malpractice is when an imposter creates fake profiles in your name and posts compromising photos of you, making you suffer a financial loss as a content creator, or hurting your reputation if you chose to remain anonymous. Hacking and hijacking social media accounts is another common way cyberbullies abuse their target. Victims are usually left feeling vulnerable, humiliated and exploited which is why impersonation is considered a form of cyberbullying.

Why Do People Impersonate?

There are statistics claiming that catfishing is the 11th most popular form of cybercrime. There are many reasons why people choose to impersonate others, the main mission being to cause emotional, psychological and possibly financial harm.

Mental Illness

Someone who struggles with chronic anxiety or depression, or general mental health issues might become involved with impersonation as they may not have the self-esteem to be themselves. They might be feeling lonely and may possibly be struggling to establish and maintain relationships. Impersonators typically find – or create – a persona they deem relatively attractive and steal that identity, with the hopes of making new friendships, however genuine that bond may be. This allows the perpetrator to feel more normal and validated.
After exploiting their target emotionally by deceiving them, they may use their tactics to cause financial harm. For example, after building a friendship, the impersonator may try to convince their target to take out a loan for them. Or even worse, they may try to blackmail their target into sending them money by threatening to expose them in one form or another.

Insecurities

Another reason why someone might choose to catfish includes the idea that if someone is insecure within their own true identity, they may choose to lie about themselves, creating a false character. They may lie about their career and accomplishments in life in order to boost their self-confidence. Online popularity becomes attractive for those who do not have many friends in real life; social media is a great platform for attention-seekers to use.

Hiding Their Identity

There is a whole list of reasons why imposters choose to conceal their online identity. It is easier to troll others if people do not know who you actually are. Unfortunately, trolls tend to harass others anonymously so they do not face consequences for their behaviour. This anonymity also helps breed other illegal activities, as the true identity of the cyberbully being hidden usually means there will be no legal repercussions. Extortion is one of these crimes.

Targeted Revenge/Harassment

Persistently sending others hurtful messages online is classed as harassment. The comments could be derogatory or threatening. Unfortunately, by using social media you are opening yourself to the risk of being targeted by impersonators. You may choose to block your stalkers or those who are bothering you, but sometimes this does not fix the problem. The cyberbully may choose to seek revenge by trying to harm you and your online presence.

To Explore Sexual Preference

Impersonators might assume a fake online identity because they want to explore their sexual identities. This way they get a taste of that desired lifestyle without having to commit to anything or exposing their true self.

How To Identify Impersonation Scams?

Here are some of the signs to look out for:
Does not have many friends or followers – it is quite a struggle for catfishers to establish and maintain many online friendships as this requires a significant amount of time and effort.
Is quite intense with you – are you being love bombed by a stranger on the internet? Or are they making bold requests like doing a business venture together? If so, you might be communicating with a cyberbully.
Asks you for money or gifts – we strongly suggest that you do not send money or gifts to anyone whose identity you are unsure of.
Stories do not add up – slipping up is quite easy when you are assuming a fake identity. Their lies will eventually catch up to them. If they are incredibly vague with details about their lives, they might be an imposter.
Avoids meeting up and audio/video calls – catfishers are likely to avoid face-to-face communication to not be exposed. You probably will not be chatting with them over the phone either. They will provide many excuses as to why they cannot call you right now.
Uses old profile photos – if a suspected profile has not uploaded many photographs of themselves, or if they have used the same photo for many years, they probably are not who they seem to be.

How Can Rulta Guard You From Impersonators?

Unfortunately, impersonation is something our clients face regularly. Rulta uses advanced algorithms to search the web for any cases of content piracy, obtains the relevant data and sends this report back to the client for information and confirmation. Our team then takes action to report and remove the profiles of the impersonators and the traces they may leave behind. We scan through a whole range of social media platforms: Reddit, Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Contact us through our live chat to find out how we can safeguard you from impersonation.

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