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Ending Twitter Impersonation

Farris Timimi TwitterIt may be true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  But it doesn't feel that way when it happens on Twitter.

During a recent Twitter brown bag with some of my Mayo Clinic cardiology colleagues, we asked for a volunteer to create a Twitter account while the rest watched, giving an example of what to expect in the process.

What happened next was something I certainly wasn't expecting.

When we asked our physician volunteer to search for individual accounts to follow, his search for "Farris Timimi" came up with two profiles: one mine, and one an impostor.

The second account included my Twitter profile photo and header, my word-for-word bio, even my link to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.  Discovering an identical profile did make for a great teaching point (how important it is to define your digital persona online before the web does so for you), and also led to a lively discussion on how to handle an impersonation on Twitter.

I reviewed the Twitter Impersonation Policy and found that, “Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules.  Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter Impersonation Policy."

So what steps should you take if you suspect your account has been hacked?  The first step should be to reset your password via e-mail using the password request form.  If you find that you cannot log into your account after resetting your password, your next step should be to work through these steps for a compromised account.

If the issue centers on an impersonation, as mine did, there is a well-defined process in place that you can follow.  The impersonation report should either come from you directly, as the individual being impersonated, or someone who is legally authorized to act on their behalf.  The key issue centers on documenting ownership and your identity, or if you are acting on behalf of someone else, documenting that you possess the legal authority to do so.

The reporting process itself is really straightforward.

You can file a report that a Twitter account is impersonating you by going to this page.  The online submission process is straightforward, including your name, e-mail address, Twitter username, and the account that is impersonating you.  In followup, you will need to fax a copy of your government-issued photo ID to Twitter as part of that process, faxing a one page document that includes the assigned Ticket number to User Safety, Twitter Inc.

And that truly is it.  The entire process took little more than a day or two from start to finish, and required no more than one fax.

As Oscar Wide observed, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”

Just make sure your online persona is yours.

Farris Timimi, M.D. is the Medical Director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. TW 140 is part of the Twitter section of the Course Catalog for the Social Media Health Network 

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Ending Twitter Impersonation #Twitter #MCSMN #IdentityTheft
Know what to do if someone is impersonating you on Twitter? #IdentityTheft
What steps should you take if you suspect a social media account has been hacked? #MCSMN #MayoClinic

Thanks for sharing this information, it’s very helpful. I’d like to share another example of impersonation – a growing trend among teens influenced by a Taylor Swift song about a child dying of cancer. Some are using creative writing skills to develop blogs about non-existent children dying from cancer, hijacking photos of real children, hospital names and more. One such blog was among the top ranked search results for children with a rare form of leukemia (CML) until a mom whose child had the same condition noticed discrepancies which led to outing the 17-year-old girl behind the blog and getting the blog taken down. That story has been picked up by media including the Today Show.



Someone is impersonating me. I realize this on Saturday & submitted a report to twitter & faxed them my passport but twitter never got back to me. That account is still tweeting & still have my name, avatar, & biography :/

What shall I do?

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