Recently, it came to my attention that someone else tried to post a message on the blog of another designer friend of mine – using my business name!
Fortunately, my friend noticed the discrepancy between the first name given (not my own) and the odd juxtaposition with my business name, and emailed me to find out if it was, in fact, my post before releasing it. Needless to say, it was not – and she did not release the post. Image how stunned I was to see the screenshot she sent me, showing clearly someone else using my business name!
What’s more, the person who attempted this turns out, in fact, to not even be a real person, but a screen name under which multiple people post on behalf of a large conglomerate chain of cheap furniture, which has racked up an impressive list of complaints, according to Google – including an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. We know this about this entity because my friend was told so in a direct communication from the company involved when this issue was raised with them.
Please rest assured, too, that I would never have anything to do with this company, or any other that carried goods of this apparently poor quality, or which has such a terrible reputation for customer service. I stand for high quality goods and services, and only do business with companies and manufacturers who produce the same – and who stand behind their products in the event of a problem.
Sadly, this entity which attempted to impersonate me, which goes by the various names of “nicolette” and “Nicolette Teek”, has been posting prolifically all over pretty much every other interior design blog and related website out there, including my own, and that of my friend, Nicolette Toussaint, a design student in San Francisco who is also a prolific blogger and gifted artist and writer. The posts are frequently not even on topic – and always contain links back to the company in question, and the blog that this so-called “Nicolette, the Design Diva” (I kid you not) writes on their behalf.
This entity also has a presence on Facebook, where it has been friended by more than 200 other people, including some very reputable interior designers.
Nicolette Toussaint (the real Nicolette) describes the issue brilliantly on her own blog, including how I was fooled into thinking this entity was actually her, in a post entitled “Of Scruples, Scams, Divas and My Evil Twin“.
Since I was confused and mistook this entity for her, despite knowing her personally, we figured others might be as well.
Which leads me to the substance of this particular post.
If someone has been trying to impersonate me like this, it’s only a matter of time before they attempt to impersonate others – including potentially some of the most popular bloggers out there – or some of the more controversial ones.
If you happen to come across anyone using my own name or business name, and you’ve got any question as to whether or not I actually posted the comment in question, please let me know, including links, screenshots, etc.
Please be aware that impersonations such as this are pretty easy to do in cyberspace, so here are some tips to help you protect yourself, and others.
1. Make sure to Google your own name, business name, blog name, etc. on a regular and frequent basis, to ensure that only posts that you make are actually being attributed to you.
2. If you own a blog, try to verify that the name and business names and links given by people who post comments in response to your posts match. You won’t know everyone, but many major blog platforms give you the IP address from which a post originates, and you can certainly at least check any links posted in the body of the comment. If the names don’t match – be aware that you’ve got spam.
3. If the IP address is shown, you can look it up on sites such as Whois to determine who actually owns it, and can often tell if the site is legitimate or not. In the case of the entity who attempted to impersonate me, the IP address resolves to a communications company, showing that it is an anonymous registration – in Canada. Discrepancies such as this alone, when you know that the alleged poster lives and works in the US, ought to be a tipoff that something’s wrong. Most legitimate businesses will also not register their sites anonymously like this, either, as they want people to be able to find them.
4. Be careful who you give access to your personal information to. When you friend someone on Facebook, or connect with them on a variety of other social media sites, including LinkedIn, you open the door to scammers of all stripes and offer them access to all of the personal information about you that you may have posted there. In short, know who you are connecting with before doing so, and be judicious about who you share such information with.
5. On Facebook, you might also want to protect your profile so that only people in your own immediate friends list can see your personal information. To do this, go to “Settings” in the upper right hand corner of your homepage screen, then select “Privacy Settings”, then make the appropriate changes. While you’re at it, tell Facebook not to allow others to use you or your information in other people’s ads. None of this will help protect you if you’ve allowed spammers access to your profile, though, which is why you need to be careful who you let into these networks.
6. Be careful who you allow to post links on your sites in comments. Check the urls (by entering them manually, not clicking on links), particularly if they sound at all suspicious. If you like the post, but have reservations about the site being linked to, and would not want your name to be associated with that company, or its products or services, you can delete those links before you authorize the post. If they really sound suspicious, don’t even look at the urls, so as to avoid getting hit with viruses and spyware.
7. If you’re a blogger, beware of posting pingbacks to what are known as “link farms”. These are those sites you’ve seen who seem to accumulate a wide variety of posts on all kinds of different topics, yet have no content of their own, and no information about the author of the blog. Sometimes they relate mostly to a particular subject matter, but even so, these are always spam sites – and Google will penalize you if you link back to them.