BOSTON (CBS) – Kelly Quigley is outraged that her daughter feels victimized by a social networking site she never joined. “Not being able to do something to protect my child was the worst part of this,” she said.
Someone created a fake Facebook profile of her 12-year-old daughter Casey and posted phony comments. “They had what I’m interested in, what school I go to. All my information is out there,” Casey explained.
Emerson College social medial professor Dave Gerzof says it is easy to find a photo of someone and create a fake profile in a matter of minutes. “All you need is a valid email address,” he said. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but there are quite a few fake profiles out there,” he added.
WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports
What makes this even more difficult is that under Facebook’s own rules, Casey is too young to have an account. You have to be at least 13 to register. The Quigleys notified Facebook that Casey was underage and her page was fraudulent. But the Quigleys say Facebook was slow to respond. “I tried to call them. We sent them letters. I created a profile myself. I did everything in my power to contact Facebook, but you can’t get a live person,” Kelly explained. After nine months, Kelly says Facebook finally took down the bogus profile.
This type of thing happens all too often. It’s called cyber impersonation and its not just about middle schoolers posting nasty messages. Gerzof says even adults can easily be fooled by a fraudulent Facebook account. They look real enough so it is easy to see how you might friend a fraudulent page without knowing it. “Once you become friends, your privacy settings open up to a whole new set of information,” he said.
Fraud is the main reason Massachusetts native Dave Gordon created Tru.ly. “Tru.ly is the first online verification system,” he explained. The site verifies that you are who you say you are. It even gives you a certification mark on your Facebook pages so everyone will know what you are the real deal. Tru.ly also works on other sites like Craig’s list and online dating services. “It helps to know exactly who you are transacting with, to cut down on fraud,” he said.
Kelly Quigley thinks there should be more protection. “I think they need to have some sort of laws in place to protect children. As an adult, I think it’s equally important,” she said.
In California, it is now a crime to impersonate someone on Facebook. The state of Washington is working on a similar law. In Massachusetts, lawmakers recently passed a law to protect kids from cyber-bullying. But right now there is nothing on the books to specifically address cyber impersonation.