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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Thank you Jamilla and British Beauty Blogger. Identity theft is rampant everywhere and it’s sad to see it move onto the beauty world/blogging. I’ve been the victim of content theft, and identity theft is one step beyond. It’s frightening. It’s scary.
Sometimes I feel it’s so overwhelming I’m helpless. Thanks to a few posts, much like this one, I feel better and a bit empowered to take steps to at least try and stop it. So far I’ve had no luck with removals – but I have had luck with it stopping in some instances.
I’m sorry this happened to you Jamilla! Good for you in being persistent. I hope they take all your stolen content down! Thank you for sharing this.
If I can help anyone with my bad experience, then I am very happy. Thanks for posting this.
omg what a psycho!!
Thank you for the tips, the post is very helpful. x
Bloggers, beauty and otherwise, are creative, plucky people who place their intellectual content on the Internet for the best of reasons, and then they got ripped off by the newest form of pond scum. I think that you are on the cutting edge of a form of communication and information, and that the legal protections/laws to cover your work are basically non-existent or very nascent.
Posting about these ripoffs is helpful to get the word out (Polish Police did a thrilling job), but the onus is always on the owner of the content to prove theft and go after the crook. I know from experience, and a hideous one, what it was like for my publisher to take off with $15 million of his company’s assets. Very long story, short, I was part of a federal case (literally a U.S. federal lawsuit) against this guy and his son (crime was a family business). The outcome was that I got my copyright back because of contract violation, and I learned that this publishing house was part of a 1990’s scam along with literary agents (ha) to lure in novice writers and then take their money and run.
That kind of white-collar crime still exists, but some of it has evolved into online content theft. If you gals banded together to pool ideas and information, you could stop a percentage of the theft. The “allglam” crooks will just set shop elsewhere, with a new name, on a new site, but making it harder to commit the crime of intellectual property theft is the only way for this activity NOT to escalate.
Update! Oxygen.com has removed ALL the offending posts, removed the bogus user profile, and banned the identity thief from any of the Oxygen Forums.
However, there are still Asian Makeup Lady fan postings out there…go figure!
Well this is absolutely terrifying! I have always been careful to shred important documents but it never dawned on me that identity theft could have via the internet. How silly of me.
Thanks so much for sharing this.