A young woman looks at her Instagram account. Santi Burgos
It was Halloween night when Blanca Lozano (Madrid, 1998) found out that, for the third time, someone had taken her Instagram photos and pretended to be her. This was less than three months ago. This journalist couldn't help but wonder why it was happening to her. Two of the accounts where they tried to impersonate her took several photos that she had on her real profile and added a fake name. In the other, they put their real name and included a link in the bio. With this third account, the impersonator(s) tried to imply that this was Lozano's secondary profile: ''It said that if they wanted to see the content that they wouldn't let me upload to Instagram, they should go to the
. I got in and a
of a girl making a very explicit sexual gesture, as if she were me''.
To access that supposed content, you had to pay within the link.
Ideas to save our privacy in the midst of the global battle for data
Lozano believes that account is still active.
The young woman assures that, after asking her almost 2,000 followers to denounce the false account, she received a notification from Instagram saying that the account did not violate the platform's rules.
''What more do you need?
What will happen to a girl who uploads a video and is there for several hours?
I felt vulnerable and tired, wondering who I could be.
I didn't understand why they did it to me.
Anyone who does that knows that they are harming the other person,'' he laments.
Lozano decided to go to the National Police to report it. When an agent asked him what he was going to report and he told him, he told him, as he relates: "Man... I wouldn't report it if the person who is pretending to be you has not used your address or your number phone number, nor your full name, it is not that you are committing a more serious crime. Unless it's something serious, these things don't usually go through the process." That's why he didn't report it. Nor the next time. “I thought they weren't going to listen to me,” admits Lozano. He reported it to Instagram, yes.
It was a correct decision.
The complaint before the social network itself is the first step that the user who faces such a situation must follow, according to Commander Alberto Redondo, head of the Technological Crimes Group (GDT) of the Judicial Police Technical Unit of the Guard. Civil.
According to Redondo, after that, the victim must "go to the nearest Civil Guard barracks" to report it.
He considers, however, that "many times the complaint is more successful at the administrative level, such as in the Spanish Agency for Data Protection, which, in addition, usually imposes higher penalties and the procedures are faster."
It is very difficult to know if a case like Lozano's would have ended in conviction. By having a public profile, the photos were not stolen as they would have been through
a private account. In addition, everything would depend on the consideration of the judge and whether there was a crime of usurpation of marital status or identity theft, whether or not a scam occurred, the damages faced by the victim, etc. Although, yes, normally in this type of action a single crime is not incurred, but it is a contest of infractions, as the commander insists.
To all this is added that, according to Redondo, the investigation of these crimes is very complex for the authorities: "It is no longer just that whoever is behind these accounts does not appear with their real identity, but also uses certain complicated techniques of detect, such as anonymizers or VPN (Virtual Private Network)''.
In fact, the head of the GDT assures that the criminal model has evolved to the point that cybercriminals are subcontracted and “we must forget about the classic uncle, or aunt, who is alone and hooded in front of the computer.
Right now they are criminal organizations with defined roles;
some are dedicated to looking for victims, others, to technological development, others, to laundering money... Crime is taken as a business,'' he details.
Although in the eyes of many it might seem surprising, these types of situations are more common on social networks than you might think
According to Redondo, crimes related to data theft "are the most lucrative business that cybercriminals have right now." From the theft of a Twitter password or credit card number to scams like the one that was tried to materialize as a result of Lozano's false profile.
What is striking about this practice is, above all, that it affects ordinary people and not just public figures, who are also used to exposure and on many occasions have assumed that their position or profession entails problems like that. In other words, any user, especially if they have a public profile, can be the victim of an impersonation attempt.
Photographs are the basic raw material for the targets sought by impersonators. Therefore, it is logical that they go to Instagram. Even so, impersonations also occur on other networks, such as Twitter. Precisely on this platform, the singer from La Mancha Rozalén denounced a few days ago that there was a false account that asked minors for photos and money under the pretext that they could know her. The artist's tweet generated a debate among users about the possibility of asking for the DNI to create accounts on social networks, about the age that children must be when they are given a mobile phone and about the impunity that some users believe that it usually occur in these cases.
Be careful and only pay attention to official accounts!!!!!
An example: This fake account pretends to be me and asks minors for photos and money….
As soon as they write you strange things, don't even report it 🙏
How disgusting... What a disgusting rock!!!!
– Rozalén (@RozalenMusic) January 8, 2022
Twitter establishes in its policies that it does not actively review the profiles, but analyzes the alleged case of impersonation when it receives a valid complaint. If a user wants to report it, they can do so in the help center. In the case of Instagram, the company warns that it only admits complaints from those affected or their representatives, although this has nothing to do with the complaint that any user of a profile within the platform can make when they believe that the content they uploads is inappropriate or violates some rule or, as in these cases, they are not even real profiles.
On Instagram, which is owned by Meta, in addition to offering the complaint resource and some advice in its help center, in order to avoid scams, they launched last July a security check aimed primarily at
victims of their accounts so they can make their profiles more secure, through two-factor authentication, for example. Although there are no exact figures on Instagram, on Facebook, from July to September 2021, 1.8 billion fake accounts were deactivated, 500 million more than in the first quarter of the year. The latest figure is the highest since the first months of 2019.
In a year characterized by the increase in this criminal activity and after facing the third profile that tried to supplant her, Blanca Lozano felt compelled to privatize her account.
He says he never wanted to do it, but since he changed the settings, no account has been found that has stolen his images.
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