Monday, 30 March 2015

A Catfish Story

Will the real Krysten please stand up?

It is no secret that I am pretty accessible here on the internet. I have shared intimate details about myself and my life online. And I have never questioned it. I have met amazing people. I spend a couple hours a week counseling women who have gone through/are going through similar experiences. I have been able to work with great charity organizations as an advocate. It has lead to a new career. And it has provided me with great opportunities and experiences. All things I never expected when I first started writing 3 years ago.

But the events that transpired over the weekend, definitely made me stop and rethink the way I share online. I was reminded of some of the negative effects of being as open as I am.

Late Sunday afternoon after working all weekend the Around the Bay Expo, I received a friend request and a strange message from a guy I didn't know, "your photos have been compromised".

It was such a strange message and I was so tired that I almost didn't respond. But I was curious so I messaged him asking what that meant. Only to find myself in the middle of a Catfish scam where my photos and bits and pieces of my life were being used by someone else.

This is actually the second time this has happened. The first time someone had taken one of my photos and placed it on a dating profile. It was weird, but I had the profile removed and that was that. It was just one photo and all the other details had nothing to do with me. 

This time was more involved and made me increasing uncomfortable the more that was revealed. 

As I talked to my new Facebook friend he revealed text messages all with my picture attached to the profile. And when I clicked on the profile I found dozens of pictures all stolen from my social media channels and belonging to someone calling themselves "Kris Joseph". She had over 2000 Facebook friends - all friends she has clearly never met in real life. And an instagram profile filled with my selfies. This situation ran deep, And I found myself wondering why she was doing this?

Is this just make-believe for her? Is this something she does to meet people? Does she not feel comfortable with who she is on her own? Or was there something more sinister going on? Was this scam? And a scam that is using my photos to do it?

I was mortified. 

And when I saw she had shared a photo of me and my Dad - describing how she had lost him 15 years ago. My blood boiled. I don't know why she was doing this, or why she picked me, and parts of my story. But there are certain things that are sacred - and my Dad is one of them. This was fantasy for her, but that is an experience and a pain that is really real for me. 

I was angry at her. But part of me was angry at myself. I shared that photo, like I have shared many things about myself over the last few years. And while it was never my intention to have someone else use it and abuse it, perhaps I have to share some of the blame for opening up my life in such a way. I made something so important to me, so accessible. Some of the guilt and reproach I feel is towards myself.

For me, in end the good out weighs the bad on social media, but this one has left me feeling sad and more than a little rattled. 

I contacted Facebook and Instagram to report the accounts. And I also messaged her privately asking that she remove my photos. The photos were removed quickly - probably within 30 seconds of my message. And within a few more minutes the whole account disappeared.

I thought that would be the end of the story. But I found out Monday morning that despite being discovered, she has continued to try to lie via text about the reason the account was deleted and who she is.

I decided to write this is hopes that "she" may read it. And maybe see the other side of the Catfish experience. Maybe she would even email me to explain why she chose to do this. Or maybe someone else she is talking to will see this, and realize that she is not who she says she is. And more importantly, hopefully she will stop this all together.

"Kris Joseph", whoever you are, please stop. Chose to be yourself. That is enough.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Ps if anyone has any advice about how to ensure this does not happen again, I would greatly appreciate it.