It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller: Someone replicates your identity and pastes your photograph and personal details on the Internet. But, it is happening so close home, and with such regularity, that it is scary, not thrilling. Think twice before you put your pictures and personal details like cell phone numbers on websites where these can be freely accessed.
Profiles of unsuspecting members of social networking sites and home pages are being increasingly replicated, pictures morphed and abused at an alarming rate. The targets are mostly women.
In some cases, young women have found their pictures morphed and turned into pornography. A 22-year-old university student from Bathinda, Punjab had to put in a frantic appeal to the web master and others users of the networking site she was on. Someone had stolen her pictures and contact details on her user profile and created a fake mirror profile. She got to know only after she was flooded with obscene calls on her cell phone. “It was impossible to tell everyone who had visited the fake profile that it was not me,” she says.
For a student of MES College, Bangalore, the experience was even more harrowing. Her pictures were morphed and posted on the Internet. “She was disturbed for so many days. She had put up her pictures innocently for friends to see,” a teacher told HT on Saturday.
Experts say with social networking sites becoming more and more popular among the younger generation, such instances are rising alarmingly. “The bad news is that there is no prevention. You should avoid putting your pictures on the website,” says cyber-security analyst Subimal Bhattacharjee. He adds that victims should approach the local police and the web master of the website where the manipulation has taken place.
The police also advise prevention. “People should not put up their pictures. They can be misused,” says Sanjay Shintre, DCP (crime) Thane. The Thane Police booked a 19-year-old management student, Abhishek, for faking a profile of his former schoolmate on September 28 this year. It was the first recorded case of its kind in the country.
Shintre adds that in case of Abhishek, the police were able to achieve a breakthrough because the complainant was forthcoming. Two more complaints have been received since then but did not translate into cases because the victims withdrew.
The instance of misuse is much higher. For instance, on a popular networking site alone, 270 members have reported fake profiles being created in the last few weeks. The menace is spreading as fast as social networking on the net.