How having your personal photos stolen is like another kind of identity theft


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s a different kind of identity theft — your personal photos stolen by criminals to use on scam sites. Experts say it’s a more widespread problem than you might think.

Let’s take the case of Anastasia Cortez, who had her photos used illegally on the internet.

“It’s frustrating because it’s affecting my reputation,” she said.

CBS 17 first reported on the Australian actress and motivational speaker earlier this week in a special report on a bitcoin scam. Criminals had stolen her photo and renamed it, claiming she was a marketing analyst for their firm.

A reverse image search found her picture is being used on more than 10 identical cryptocurrency sites.

“I’m greatly peeved and annoyed,” Cortez said.

She said she also found her photo used on 50 or more other sites that had nothing to do with cryptocurrency.

“Instagram doesn’t block these accounts, even when they are reported by my followers or myself,” she said.

In this country, you have options to get that content removed under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act or DMAC. All the social media giants — Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — have a form that allows you to fill out a DMAC request asking for the content to be removed.

CBS 17 found out that Google gets 75 million requests a month. Facebook and Instagram each get about 147,000 and Twitter gets 169,000 per month.

Cybersecurity expert Craig Petronella said stealing photos from Internet sites by criminals is a form of identity theft. 

“What everyone needs to do is search their name in Google and other sites and make sure whatever is coming up is really you,” Petronella said.

There’s also the issue of hidden information in every photo you post. It’s called metadata and includes your GPS location, date, time, and other information.

That metadata is a digital bonus for social media companies.

“They’re data mining information, so they’re getting a lot of information,” Petronella said.

Petronella suggests you use an app like Metapho, which will strip the metadata out of your pictures sanitizing them for posting.

“The point is for consumers to take some of this power and put it in their own hands and not rely on social media or others to do this work for them,” he said.

With the volume of requests social media giants get to remove content, it’s not going to happen instantly.

They’re going to investigate first, and it could take several weeks for you to see results.

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