Three days ago I found out I was a victim of stolen identity.

A person using the name Lyla had made a Facebook and, subsequently, a Tinder account using numerous pictures of me. A friend of mine, who lives in Boston, came across Lyla’s Tinder and, upon recognizing my photos, relayed the news and began probing my supposed stalker.

For those who aren’t familiar with the latest dating app, Tinder creates a profile using your Facebook page, including your name, your photos, your age and pages you’ve “liked.” It then uses a GPS to match you with those of the opposite sex who are within a certain radius. In a superficial way, you then swipe right or left, depending on your physical attraction to your potential matches, to hopefully be paired and thus, begin conversing.

I have never used the app in any capacity so my initial reaction was one of shock. Then shock grew to anger and slight fear. Who was the person up in Boston who had found me and stolen pictures of me to pass as her own? I questioned everything I had ever done on the Internet and wondered how much this person knew about my life.

Lyla responded to my friend like a typical 21-year-old girl, continuing to play the role of me. This freaked me out even more. I decided to delete my Facebook and remove as much information about myself from the Web. I also contacted Tinder and Facebook in an attempt to report Lyla and her accounts, but I never received a response.

What I very quickly learned this week is that virtually nothing is private. No matter how many security settings I placed on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it clearly was not enough. And although nothing physically harmful has happened because of Lyla, it’s put me on edge in regards to credit cards, emails and anything somewhat confidential.

I was always fairly naïve about situations like this. I never thought someone would break into my bubble; I also password-protect and don’t browse strange sites. Even though I believed I was doing everything right to maintain privacy, Lyla managed to create her persona.

Now, because of Lyla, I’ve had to forgo using Facebook to keep in touch with my friends from home and I’ve been weary of uploading anything. While these inconveniences are just that, minor inconveniences, the idea of a non-private remains.

As much as we’ve grown to accept the World Wide Web as an essential part of our lives, Internet privacy is a serious matter. The Internet provides a simple and fast way to partake in criminal activities from stalking to buying and selling social security numbers to hacking confidential sites. Since Lyla has come into my life I’ve felt it necessary to urge everyone to be conscious of activity on the Internet and stay responsible of protecting personal materials. 

Contact reporter Stephanie Manley stephanie.manley@richmond.edu

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