Reporter Lauren Johnson wasn’t happy to learn her personal photos were being used on a fake dating profile. She learned about it when a stranger sent her link to the fake profile through Facebook. The profile had an unfamiliar phone number attached to it, encouraging unknowing strangers to text.
"Maybe they don't ever intend to actually engage with the person face to face, but they will develop this online romantic relationship,” said Neal Custer, an Investigator and President of Custer Agency.
Custer says fake profiles like this are common on social media sites, especially dating sites, to steal money or personal information.
“We all accept a risk if we put our pictures and information out there,” said Custer.
Johnson reported the fake profile, and on Tuesday it had been taken down by the company. But Johnson wanted to know if her photos were being used in other places.
Custer explained that a reverse Google Image search can show if the photo is anywhere else on the web. Custer checked for Johnson’s photos and it looks like, right now, they aren’t anywhere else on the web. But someone else does have them, and they could show up again in the future.
Custer says there are different kinds of victims - those like Johnson whose photos are used, and those who don't check to see if the people they're talking to online are who they say they are.
“The opposite of what happened to [Johnson] is that if you are going to engage with somebody online, then take that image, and do an image search online to see if it shows up under a different person’s name,” said Custer.
Johnson said she’ll be using the Google Image reverse search a lot more to check up on her stolen photos, and also thanked the good Samaritan for coming forward. Custer said if more people let others know when they discover stolen images, there would be fewer scams on the web.