It’s difficult to stop the risk of being impersonated online; however, there are multiple steps you can take to be better protected than your peers.
When we at Hacked.com discuss impersonation, we mainly consider online impersonation and the creation of fake social media profiles impersonating executives, business professionals, celebrities, or influencers.
Why do scammers impersonate?
To stop being impersonated, you have to understand why you might be impersonated in the first place. Scammers are after one or more of the following:
- Financial Gain: The most common reason is to scam victims for money. By impersonating someone the victim trusts, scammers can manipulate them into sharing sensitive data, such as banking details or passwords, or directly transferring money.
- Access to Information: Impersonating a trusted individual or organization can enable scammers to gain access to classified or personal information. This data can then be used for secondary scams, sold on the black market, or exploited in other ways.
- Leverage and Blackmail: With stolen personal information or compromising materials, scammers can blackmail the individual being impersonated or others who trust that individual.
- Credibility and Trust: People are more likely to trust and engage with someone they believe they know. Impersonating a reputable individual or organization allows scammers to exploit this trust.
- Platform Benefits: On platforms that reward popular or verified users (e.g., social media), scammers can impersonate well-known figures to gain followers quickly, which they might later monetize or use to spread malicious content.
- To Spread Malware: By impersonating trusted sources, scammers can trick users into clicking links or downloading files that contain malware, spyware, or other malicious software.
- Disinformation and Propaganda: In politically motivated scams, impersonation can spread false information or propaganda, aiming to influence opinions, sow discord, or tarnish reputations.
- Ego and Thrill: Some scammers impersonate others for the sheer thrill of deceiving people, enjoying the power and control it gives them.
Are you at risk of being impersonated online?
People with power, affluence, or influence are more frequently impersonated, as it’s easier to trust someone with authority. You are at higher risk of being impersonated if you are:
- A business professional
- A celebrity
- An influencer
- An executive
- A board member
- A politician
- A high-ranking official
- A high-net-worth individual
- An investor
If you fit within one or more of these categories of people, then you need to think about preventive measures to stop impersonation.
Preventive measures to stop impersonation attempts
The best preventive measure is to be as private as possible and limit your online presence. We have a great article on enhancing your privacy settings on your social media accounts here. While it may be challenging for certain professions listed above, there are ways to increase privacy and security measures to minimize exposure.
Limit sharing of personal information
Think twice before sharing personal details like your home address, phone number, or other personal data on public forums, social media platforms, or websites. This includes limiting professional and personal images of yourself, especially with your face.
Monitor Social Media Platforms and Websites
You should regularly run scans of different social media platforms for profiles similar to yours. Impersonators might be using your full name, a part of your full name, a nickname, or your images.
It can be hard to scan social media platforms automatically, but that’s why we’ve created Fake Profile Hunter, which you can read more about here.
Act Immediately: Report impersonators and warn your connections
If you find an account impersonating you, you should find the best reporting methods so it will be taken down as fast as possible. Depending on when the account was created, it can have created havoc for multiple days or even weeks. Reach out to your connections and warn them about the fake profile, and post a story to your profiles regarding the imposter.
An example of what you can post to warn your network:
I’ve recently discovered a LinkedIn account posing as me at this URL: https://… I want to clarify that this profile is not associated with me in any way. I’ve already reported it to LinkedIn. If you’ve had any interactions with this fake account, kindly screenshot the conversations and forward them to me for evidence. Additionally, should you come across any other suspicious profiles that seem to impersonate me, please alert me. I appreciate your understanding and assistance. Thank you.
To report a fake profile, you can often click on a link named “Report,” or a flag, or three dots under the profile that gives you more options. Most platforms have the options “Report” and “Fake Profile.” You can search for “remove fake profile LinkedIn” or “report imposter LinkedIn” to get more specific impersonation forms to submit.
Featured image by Jonas Borchgrevink made with Midjourney.