What is Online Impersonation and What Can You Do If You Face it?
Online impersonation is a form of digital identity theft and occurs when a person fabricates a false identity to use on the internet for a malicious gain. They may copy someone else’s identity altogether by stealing their photos and personal information. Whichever form online impersonation takes, the resulting scenario is always stressful. The aim of the imposter is to benefit from the victim financially or emotionally. So, what can we expect from such a cyber-attack?
What Forms Can Online Impersonation Take?
There are many ways online impersonation can happen so it is beneficial for you to understand the different techniques used by these cyber criminals.
How Individuals Are Affected
All your hard work could be reversed in a matter of days if your reputation is attacked. One way you may get targeted by an imposter is when they create a fake profile in your name with your personal information, giving them the opportunity to trick others into thinking that they are communicating with the real you. They might post compromising content that could potentially damage your reputation, and furthermore your online business if you have one. The cyberbully might swipe your private content and post this on public websites, allowing anyone access to you. This is incredibly exploitative and financially upsetting for the victim.
Another form of online impersonation includes catfishing. This happens when a cyberbully misappropriates your photos and personal information, creating a profile pretending to be you. The reason for this could be because the bully lacks the self-esteem to exist on the internet as themselves. They could be “pinching” your profile as they crave the attention you are getting and want to benefit from this. However, monetary scams are more common in the field of catfishing. By pretending to be you, the imposter could scam your clients and fans into sending them the money you deserve, or even more swipe their personal information. They could also deceive people in other ways, such as persuading your followers into taking out a loan “for you” in their own name. Unfortunately, cons like this could potentially affect your brand’s reputation and decrease its appearance of legitimacy.
Having your workplace account hacked is one more example of online impersonation. The cyberbully could hack your account and potentially partake in criminal activity. Because your credentials have been used, you could potentially be criminally liable for any forms of misconduct that has happened.
How Businesses Are Affected
Cyberattacks on businesses tend to be more sophisticated and well-calculated attacks, targeting specific individuals. In these cases, the intent of the scammer is most definitely to cause financial harm as a work place is getting attacked.
How does this happen, you ask? Business email compromise (BEC) attacks is an extremely popular email scam targeted towards a specific individual within a business. The latest FBI Internet Crime Report revealed that BEC victims accrued the most losses compared to other cybercrimes, in 2021. Once the target clicks on the fraudulent email that appears to be sent from a trusted recipient, the hacker will have access to the business’s internal system, giving them access to confidential data. Some scammers install malware on their victim’s computer. Also known as a spear phishing scam, you might receive emails that are cleverly-constructed to fool the victim: the email will seem to be from a legitimate business or person, possibly asking you to update your personal information by clicking on a link that redirects you to a fraudulent website. You may be asked to “verify” your credit card information, for example.
These scams are sometimes hard to identify because the scammer’s email address will probably be almost identical to the official email address of the person or business in question. This is called spoofing. These types of emails are usually incredibly convincing and authentic-looking.
Another way impersonators target businesses is by pretending to be a business partner and sends you invoices that, again, is well-crafted to fool you. You are then criminally liable to make sure the funds reach the recipient. Some states have introduced laws to help protect people against online impersonation. The fraudster could also impersonate your boss: this is called executive impersonation.
Is Online Impersonation The Same As Identity Theft?
Although impersonation usually leads to identity theft, this is not always the case. In some instances, your online identity might be stolen because the impersonator wants to feel better about themselves. Perhaps they do not have the confidence to communicate with others as themselves. Or maybe they are ashamed of their sexual identity and want to explore this area using a fake profile. Although both crimes are punishable by law, they are not the same crime.
Identity theft is when your personal information is swiped and used to scam you financially. This crime impacts millions of people a year and has caused billions of dollars of damage. Parts of your identity are swiped so the cyberthief could, for example, access your banking, or take out loans in your name. This could potentially damage your credit score.
What Can You Do If You Have Been Impersonated?
Having an online impersonator can be terrifying and insulting. You can diffuse the situation by taking the appropriate steps:
- Control the visibility of your profiles, only allowing access to the accounts you trust.
- Inform your contacts that you have been a victim of impersonation, so they do not get targeted by the same criminal.
- Take screenshots to keep as evidence in case the possibility of taking legal action arises.
- Block the scammer and do not interact with them. This action is necessary!
- Report the scammer to the relevant social media authority. Hopefully, their account will then be deleted.
- Subscribe to a copyright protection service, like Rulta. Rulta prioritizes its clients’ online safety and ensures that any cases of content theft will be reported and removed from the internet, keeping you safe from cyberthieves.