Impersonation is where users create social media accounts mimicking a legitimate account. Impersonators are those who pretend to be popular personalities, i.e., politicians, film stars, activists, academicians, entrepreneurs or an official representative of a popular brand or a company.
Such impersonators are found across all online social platforms, which are widely used by celebrities, influencers, businesses and public figures having different levels of popularity. Although many impersonators may be harmless, there also exist nasty fake accounts that focus on defamation or asking for money as soon they are connected.
Impersonators are highly organised when it comes to brand impersonation. They have a focussed plan and approach, produce pre-planned untrustworthy content and abuse or generate fake negative engagement.
Types of Impersonators
Bot: These are public fake accounts that tend to mimic the legitimate user and generate related content. Some characteristics could be having no full name, no biography and sometimes no profile photos. The number of followers is low and they follow a lot of similar accounts.
Fan: These are semi human-operated accounts that are maintained by a fan of a celebrity. Some characteristics could be – Fans have higher profile similarity in photo, username, full name, and biography metrics. They publish posts and stories but don’t have their own content.
Crime: An imposter is trying to immitate the identity of another individual or brand, in order to commit fraud, such as accessing confidential information, or gaining access to a property not belonging to them.
Entertainment: One impersonates a celebrity, generally for entertainment, and makes fun of their personal lives for the sole purpose of entertainment.
* Check the URL and Not the display name or profile picture
* Sudden spikes in follower count
* Look for the unusual follower to engagement ratio
* Profile creation date (i.e. Fake Ones will be mostly new pages)
* Fewer posts and shady content
* Asking donations and seeking loans as soon as you are connected
* Use unique, complex passwords (Use special & alphanumeric characters)
* Enable (2FA) Two Factor Authentication
* Use the features i.e. Lock / Guard, your profiles
* Configure privacy settings for your social media platforms to control information sharing
* Never share sensitive & personal information
* Avoid clicking on suspicious links (Online Forms and Short Links) from unknown contacts
* Only connect with people that you know and trust in real life
* Consent should be treated the same way for all offline and online
What the Indian law says
* IT Act, Section 66D for Impersonation – Whoever, by means of any communication device or computer resource cheats by personation – Punishable up to 03 years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
* IT Act, Section 66C for Identity Theft – Whoever, fraudulently or dishonestly make use of the electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature of any other person – Punishable up to 03 years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to rupees one lakh.
* Indian Penal Code – 416 (Cheating by Personation) and 499 (Defamation) can also be used, depending on the crime.
Reporting Impersonation on Social Platforms
You can report if someone else is pretending to be you and your friends and well-wishers can also report that their friends have been impersonated.
Social platforms may request you to upload a photo of yourself with a legal photo ID. Subsequently, appropriate action is taken. However, there is mistrust on the non-transparency of the process and the lack of case closure or summary reports being available to the complainant.
* Instagram – https://help.instagram.com/370054663112398
Reporting to Cybercrime Police
* To Report directly to social platforms as mentioned above.
* If the gravity of the situation is much higher (Content is – Obscene / Nude / Suicide / Rape / Against a Faith /Against Sovereignty of Nation) then you should complain on the national cybercrime portal, https://www.cybercrime.gov.in
* Alternatively you may reach any nearest Cyber Police Station for quick support
* Thanks to Telangana Police, you can now reach any police station to raise a Cybercrime Complaint
Stay Tuned to Cyber Talk to know more about internet ethics and digital wellness brought to you by Anil Rachamalla, End Now Foundation, www.endnowfoundation.org
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