When cyber fraudsters create a social media profile using the identity details like name, address, mail id, photograph etc., of victim, without their knowledge, it is called a fake profile creation. The fraudsters create fake profile with an intention of causing harm to the victim. The fraudsters use the fake profile to spread false or fake information, damage the reputation of the victim, and may also send friend requests to other friends of victim to gain financial benefit.
Why should we be concerned ?
A fake social media profile created on anyone's name can damage their public reputation. Also any communication made by the culprit to the friends and family of the actual account holder through this fake account, can make them vulnerable to cyber attacks like phishing, financial scams etc., as they can be tricked into providing their information by the fraudster.
Dangers of fake social media profile creation
Using the fake profile created the fraudster may commit offences-
- Spread fake and false information
- Damage reputation of victim
- Send false friend requests
- Lure children and teen agers with fake identity
- Makes the friends and family of victim vulnerable to cyber-attacks like phishing, fake links, malware attacks etc.,
- Financial fraud may also happen by requesting money using messenger/message services
- The fraudsters create a fake profile with the available or collected identity related information (through various means like using social engineering tactics, phishing, recent photographs, events/functions, achievements/family and other details of others like army personnel; popular personalities; professional working abroad etc.,)
With the fake social media profile created they can
- send friend requests to the victim to trap them
- post false messages to damage the reputation of the person being impersonated
- request for money/gifts; show false romantic interests for money; try to sell false goods/items etc.,
How do we safeguard ourselves ?
- Avoid sharing your personal information like address, mobile number, personal mail id and other sensitive identity related information on social media and restrict access.
- Do not share your personal high resolution pictures online publicly on social media accounts
- Share groups pictures rather than Individual images and post limited information only in the social media platforms
- Never send money to the requests sent on social media accounts
- Never accept friend requests from unknown persons without appropriate verification and confirmation, or call to verify before paying.
- Never click on suspicious links or download anything until you verify the authenticity of the source.
- Use different passwords for different social media accounts and emails.
- Be alert of any queries about your online actions that you are not aware about.
- Enable two factor (2FA) or Multifactor Authentication (MFA provided by the social media platforms.
- Report against any fake profile on the social media platform and also on cybercrime portal cybercrime.gov.in
- Be aware of security and privacy features and enable them on the social media accounts (https://www.facebook.com/help/; https://help.twitter.com/en; https://help.instagram.com/; https://faq.whatsapp.com/)
How to report
a)To report about someones fake account
b)Visit the URL https://www.facebook.com/help/ to know more about how to report.
a)Visit the URL https://help.twitter.com/en to know more about how to report.
Steps to report fake account in Instagram:
>Go to the fake account that is opened in Instagram
>Click on the three dots on the top right hand side corner of profile page
>Select the option ‘ report’
>for the question ‘why are you reporting this account’, select the options ‘its inappropriate account’ and then choose ‘report account’
>then choose the option ‘it’s pretending to be someone else’
>then choose appropriate option for who is it pretending to be either you or someone you know or celebrity
>then submit report
b) visit the URL https://help.instagram.com/ to know more about how to report
Note: You may contact the relevant help desk or follow similar reporting mechanism for other social media platforms too.
Similarly you can report to the help centres in other social media platforms also.
Know about what the Law Says with regard to this offence ?
As per Section 66C, under Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008): As the imposter uses the unique identification feature of the real person like his/her photograph and other personal details to create a fake profile, the offence under Section 66C IT Act is attracted which is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupee.
It may also attract section 469, 499/500 under Indian Penal Code(IPC), and section66, 66D,67, under Information Technology Act 2000 (amended in 2008).
Section 66: The Section is attracted when the imposter fraudulently and dishonestly with ulterior motive uses the fake profiles to spread spam or viruses or commit data theft. The act is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees or with both.
Section 66C: As the imposter uses the unique identification feature of the real person like his/her photograph and other personal details to create a fake profile, the offence under Section 66C IT Act is attracted which is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupee.
Section 66D: If the imposter by personating the real person by means of fake profile cheats any one than the provision of Section 66D IT Act are attracted which is punishable in same manner as preceding Section 66C.
Section 67: The Section is attracted if in the fake profile, the imposter posts something which is obscene which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it. The offence is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.
Section 67A: The Section is attracted if the fake profile contains sexually explicit act or conduct. The punishment is more severe which is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees. The offence is cognizable and non bailable.
Section 67 B: If the obscene fake profile is that of children below 18 years of age, the offence is punishable under Section 67 B IT Act which makes severe punishment for child pornography. There is special provision for sexual predators which makes punishable the act of enticing or luring the children for online relationship for and on sexually explicit act or in a manner that may offend a reasonable adult on the computer resource. The offence is cognizable and non bailable with similar quantum of punishment as in Section 67A above.
It may also attract Section 13 & 14 under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
S.13– This section defines ‘child pornography’ as any person using a child for sexually gratifying purposes, in circumstances which depict the child’s sexual organs, where the child is used in real or simulated sexual acts, or when he/she is depicted in any obscene or indecent manner.
S.14– This section states the punishment for the offence in the previous section.