The term “catfish” generally refers to a person online pretending to be someone they aren’t, usually to extract some benefit or to cause embarrassment. Usually it’s a boy/fake girl thing (i.e. the Manti Te’o story), but that’s not always the case.
Check out this Twitter account. It belongs to an upstanding (as far as we can see) high school football player. He’s a senior, and had a very good high school career. We don’t know yet whether he’ll be playing at the college level but he probably would like to.
Now check out this Twitter account.
This is not the same kid*. It’s someone pretending to be him, and not trying very hard. While the pictures appear to be of the victim, and the account header is the same, the account handle is @notxxx (xxx = victim’s real name) and the first person the fake account holder followed was the victim – a real tipoff.
It’s not bad enough that the victim has someone impersonating him. Some of the fake account’s tweets are filled with foul language, and several of the tweets were vile threats against an organization that supports high school athletes with social media training.
Obviously, there’s an element of bad luck when it comes to this happening to you, but there are a couple of things you can to do play defense before and if it happens.
Be alert – The fake account was created 4 days ago, and as we said above, the first person that the fake account followed on Twitter was the victim. Had the victim been paying attention (maybe he was) to his new followers, he could have seen and reported the imposter (maybe he did). Paying attention to your new followers, even if you don’t follow back, is a good idea. In this case, the victim has 901 followers and has been on Twitter for 1,006 days, so that’s less than one new follower per day. You can stay on top of it.
This probably wasn’t random – It may be that the victim was a needle picked out of a haystack, but it’s more likely that the bad guy here is someone that the victim knows. Not to blame the victim here – we aren’t – but in reputation management, nice guys finish first. Any enemies you accumulate along the way can come back to haunt you. If you beat a team 52 – 0, or beat out another player at your school for a starting spot, it never makes sense to be anything but gracious.
*Is the victim behind this? – We can’t dismiss the chance, however slight, that the victim set up the fake account himself as an attention getting stunt. While that’s probably not the case, we caution everybody that this is a very bad idea. First impressions are very important.
If it happens, report it quickly – Twitter has a form on their site that easily allows users to report imposters, or accounts that were hijacked or otherwise compromised.
Be proactive – Now that the impersonation is going on, the victim can choose to do a number of things.
- Tweet out a few times that there is an imposter that is NOT him
- If he has been communicating with college reps on Twitter, reach out and inform them of the situation
- If the fake accounts harassed other twitter users, the victim can reach out and explain/apologize
Reputations are fragile things and the Wild West that is social media doesn’t make it easy to maintain yours. Be vigilant, and if something happens, act quickly to repair the damage. Don’t bother trying to engage with the imposter; just do what you can to repair your reputation and do what you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
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