When I read on Twitter that someone I chat with had been the victim of Identity Theft in a Forum, I asked her to write about her experience so if it happens to any one of us, we’re armed with some knowledge about what to do. Lots of bloggers also like to chat in beauty forums, so it is advice well worth heeding. So, over to @jamillacamel:

“I was notified by one of my blog readers that someone was posting under my name, using my material on Oxygen.com Bad Girls Forum, so I googled www.makeupforprofessionalasianwomen.com (my blog) and it led me to a specific post by the fake ‘Jamilla Camel’. Using the search option on Google I located 60 more posts by this person and I cut and paste each one into a document for later reference.  

This is the time to point out that if you are entering a forum, you really need to know whether it is moderated or not.  You can usually tell if a forum in unmoderated (i.e. nobody is checking the comments for profanity or bullying and conversation is allowed to run completely freely) by the number of off-topic or smutty comments that appear. A properly moderated forum will not allow profanity or off-topic posts. 

By Googling the forum, I discovered that Oxygen.com is owned by NBC Universal, and again, using Google, I tracked down the main switchboard phone number. If you have to do this, you should ask for the On-Line department, Legal or PR Department and explain that you have had your identity and content stolen by a poster on their forum. In my case, I was passed on from the Legal department to Press. Nobody says it’s easy! Finding only a Voice Mail, I then took my own initiative and contacted the Director of Cummunications who swiftly connected me to the Forum Co-ordinator. 

Having already cut and pasted the 60 bogus posts I was able to email them immediately to the Co-Ordinator and they are now in the process of removing all the posts, tracing the identity of the fake Jamilla and all comments associated with the posts. The Legal department are involved because it is a clear case of identity theft. It is my expectation that the Forum Administrator will trace the IP address of the thief and offer ‘strong discouragement’. However, you do have to remember that if the post originated from a public use computer, such as an internet cafe, it makes things much more complicated. 

From this experience, which has yet to reach its conclusion, my strong advice would be:

Google yourself once in a while to see what you come up with; it could be a very long time before you find out that someone is pretending to be you, and the results could be catastrophic.

Create an on-line identity for yourself with a specially created Facebook account, Twitter account, email account and domain name. Do NOT use your real name and personal email address or you run the risk of having your identity hijacked in real life, too. 

Never divulge where you work, your specific home town, home address or telephone numbers.

Don’t post exterior shots of your house or workplace and don’t reveal the real name of your partner or spouse.”

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