Possibly The Craziest Thing You'll Read All Week

You guys, I think maybe the moon is in its seventh house or its double equinox or its age of Aquarius or something, because some wacky stuff has been happening to me over the last few weeks. Well, some wacky people have been happening to me. Maybe another time I'll tell you about the pantsless woman who was humping our car last week and how—due to the bougainvillea-ripping rampage we witnessed her go on in our neighbor's front yard—we are now 98% convinced that she was involved in the Mysterious Case Of The Dirt Piles And Snapped-Off Flowers, but for today I think we'll just take it easy and concentrate on the story of the woman who impersonated me on the Internet for four years. 

Are you ready? It's going to be a long one. You're going to need to bring a strong drink, and at least one of your hands for covering your mouth in horror. 

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a man who told me he had some important information that I needed to know. Assuming the information was that he was a long-lost prince who was going to deposit twelve million dollars into my bank account if only I'd give him my log-in details, I ignored it. A few days later, a similar, more pressing email came. Despite Sean's urging, I ignored it again. And then last week, the same man sent me a third email, and this one contained the phrase that got my attention: I really need to talk to you. There is someone pretending to be someone else and stealing your pictures. 

Through a series of emails, the story unfolded: the man who'd contacted me had been having an online relationship with a woman who had assumed an identity made up entirely of pictures of me. She had created a fake name and a fake email account. She had used a photo of me as the profile picture on her fake Facebook page, and a different photo of me as the thumbnail on her fake IM account. She had sent this guy a huge number of pictures of me, saying they were her. While she had claimed to have, at various points, both social anxiety disorder and cancer—and thus, she said, been unable to meet him in person—she had talked with him extensively on email, IM, and the phone. This charade had gone on for four years. 

Four years. FOUR YEARS. Let's just all stop and think about four years for a minute. Four years is a really, really, really long time to pretend to be someone else.

And she probably would have got away with it too. But one day, the guy started to get a little suspicious (as you would, I imagine, after four years.) He did some digging, and his friends did some digging, and eventually one of them unearthed my blog.

And everything he thought he knew changed: there was the face of the person he thought he was in love with—hey, those were his words—but the name wasn't the same. Nothing was the same. Shocked, he called her out on it. She admitted everything: that I was a stranger, that she'd just taken my pictures from Flickr, and that she'd created other "personalities" using other people's pictures too. He hired someone to find out who she really was, and that's when he wrote to me—and to the other people whose images she'd been stealing—to let me know what had been going on. He sent me all the evidence. From what I can tell, he seems to be a good guy, badly duped. I feel really sorry for him.

And I feel sorry for her too. I imagine that she has some stuff going on in her life, that's she unhappy and that it's fun to pretend to be someone else for a while. And a weird, small, compassionate part of me understands that. But the rest of me is fairly horrified. This is stealing. It's common theft! It's seeing something you want that belongs to somebody else and thinking hmm, I'll have that. Apart from all that, it's just really, really creepy.

Once I had consulted with every single lawyer I know, I emailed her—turns out she is a middle-aged married woman living in North Carolina—and asked her to take everything down, destroy all pictures of me, and cease any other online relationships in which she was using my image. I gave her 24 hours and she did it in, like, hour 22. She wrote me back—when pressed to confirm that she'd recieved my email—and said she apologized "for it happening," which I found a strangely passive turn of phrase considering she had been actively stealing my pictures from Flickr for four years, navigating past the download disabler on them, and passing my likeness off as her own.

The bottom line is that as good a dinner party story as this is—and it's a great dinner party story, trust me, a real icebreaker—it's also, and I think you will agree, kind of disturbing. Maybe this is ridiculous in the Internet age, but I guess I believed, inherently, that people are good. I guess I believed that if my pictures on Flickr were copyrighted to me and prohibited from being downloaded, there wouldn't be a person out there who'd go in the backdoor somehow and download them anyway. I know it sounds stupid and naive now—"well, that's what you get for putting pictures of yourself on the Internet!" a whole bunch of people are probably thinking—but what are we supposed to do, not share anything ever?

Maybe. I don't know. Probably that would work just fine; there's no reason you need to see a picture of my wedding or my new haircut or my beach bonfire when you're reading my site. But then what about the pictures of ourselves that we don't have control over? What about the pictures other people upload of us? Do we ask them not to do that either? Do we make it our duty never to let a picture of ourselves hit the Internet—ever, in any form? Do we use the blank little silhouette for our Facebook profiles and our Twitter accounts and our Linked In pages, so that we're unrecognizable and anonymous? So that we're safe?  

I'm really curious to hear what you think about this topic: whether you have photos of yourself online, or whether—for exactly this reason—you don't. Do you think that by putting our pictures up on our blogs and Flickr, we're just asking for something like this to happen? If it happened to you, would you take them down and never post another? If you didn't post pictures when you blogged, would it change the way you told a story? Have you ever seen a pantless woman humping your car?

Yeah, don't answer that last one. Nobody wants to think about that.

Camels & Chocolate
Aug 01, 2011

Even though you told me all this already, I'm still floored by the whole scandal, don't know what to make of it and don't know the answer about how to handle such situations. A friend recently flipped when her wedding photog started posting pictures from her wedding on her professional site and on Facebook and tagging her, as she didn't want any photos online with her name attached due to her job, and I'm just so used to SHARING EVERYTHING that it really got me thinking what about those people NOT in media professions like us where this is the norm, where their identities need to be kept private?

(Also, unrelated but not: We're totally staying in a casino in Nevada tonight called Aquarius and all day long I've been singing "when the mooooon is in the seventh house...and Jupiter aligns with Mars..."

Camels & Chocolate
Aug 01, 2011

Um, I just wrote a really long comment and got "flagged as spam filter." Is this NBB's retribution for C&C continuously sending your comments to spam? ;-)

Aug 01, 2011

Oh my goodness -this is exactly what happened to one of my favourite other bloggers (you see what I did there?) http://katiedid.squarespace.com/. She hasn't posted since which is a travesty, as her joy and life was infectious and a weird part of me *misses* her.

I, too, think people are and should be inherently good. But duping will always happen in any medium, whether it's a bank fraud or a fake postal letter asking for money or help. I hope this doesn't discourage you from your blog: I look forward to your posts and would hate to let this person - who has obvious disorders - from ruining that.

Aug 01, 2011

In a moment of vague panic a few months ago, I deleted all of my photo albums off facebook. I can't point to any specific reason really...I suddenly just didn't think my holiday photos and party photos and cat photos needed to be circulating out there in the ether. I never did imagine anything like what you described here! I don't blog, though. Photos can really add a lot to blogs, and as a reader I appreciate them being there, usually. So if people are comfortable having their photos published, they shouldn't feel that identity theft comes with the territory. I'm glad she seems to have complied with your demands and that it didn't have to escalate beyond that (fingers crossed).

I feel so bad for that poor guy.

Aug 01, 2011

Look, nobody "asks" for this to be done. And I'm sure it has been done many times before, even in the day before the interwebs made doing it both easier to do and easier to find out about. The woman in question has her problems, that's for sure, but I do sympathise about her stealing your pictures. It makes me a little sad, and a lot grateful she didn't try anything worse. That would have been super-sucky. Me, I don't really care. If someone wants to impersonate a middle-aged journalist who lives in Sydney and doesn't earn a great deal, they can try. I'm not nearly as famous as you, so they'd probably get away with it. As long as they didn't actually steal anything from me or hurt anyone else while using my name, I guess I'd chalk it up to "one of those things".

Aug 01, 2011

Weirdo's gonna be weird. If you think of all the people you know who have blogs/flickr's and have experienced your situation, you'll probably find yourself in the minority so hopefully, with this oddity sorted, the probability of this happening again is slim. That said, I don't put anything on Facebook or allow myself to be tagged (mainly because Facebook owns the photos you upload), and I keep my flickr private. I do post some photos to my blog (which doesn't have any traffic unlike yours!) but not a lot for the sake of minimizing weirdos. Anyway, sorry this happened to you. Must have shook you up a bit!

A Little Coffee
Aug 01, 2011

Well, I've never been in your shoes in a situation like this, but I have been in the shoes of the guy who emailed you. I had an online "boyfriend" when I was 21 who I'd never met, who lived on the other side of the country. "He" turned out to be a morbidly obese lesbian who'd been stealing photos of someone from the Internet and posing as a guy named Nick, and when she realized how out of control the lie had become, she tried to fake a story that he had died in a car crash. It was... pretty crazy.

Now, I've never had a blog as well-read as yours, so maybe you have a built-in requirement to be a little more vigilant due to your notoriety. But my take on the situation is simply this: there are some crazy people out there using the Internet. Most people using the Internet are not like that. I would not let a single bad experience dictate how I conduct my online activities. I would definitely use the experience to consider if there's anything I'm doing online that I should be more careful about and maybe lay myself some ground rules, but I'm not going to stop entirely. How could you possibly prevent any photos of yourself from ever making their way onto the Internet, anyway?

A Little Coffee
Aug 01, 2011

Ugh, mine too Kristin. Didn't even include a URL link in the comment!

Aug 01, 2011

Ummmm this is possibly the creepiest thing Ive heard in a LONG time! Do you think this lady reads your blog or it was a random google type of thing?

Kind of makes my skin crawl actually- Im sorry this happened to you!

Aug 01, 2011

Any photos of people in them on my flickr are set to friends and family only. Facebook is pretty locked down as well

Aug 01, 2011

That is so creepster mcghee! I think that photos are an integral part of [most] blogging- they allow the reader to feel much more a part of the blogger's life, and that connection is what keeps you coming back, usually. However, what makes me think is how many pictures of my friends I post on my blog, many of them of recurring people. I certainly don't want to put tem in danger! (And honestly, i bet someone would rather steal my best friend's face than mine.) So, what about that?

Aug 01, 2011

I have pictures of myself on flickr, and so far have responded by blocking the creepier people that favorite stuff, but I'm still a little weirded out that my outfit pictures are the highest viewed out of anything. As weird as it is that she stole your pictures, I'd be more worried about someone taking it a step further and stalking or becoming delusional that they "know" you and making it more personal. This seems to have been more of a problem between her and the men she was deceiving.

Aug 01, 2011

Oh my gosh! This is so similar to the documentary Catfish we saw last weekend. How creepy!

Aug 01, 2011

Given those events, you might find the "was it fact or fiction" movie Catfish a bit disturbing. Or sad.

Aug 01, 2011

Lori--I agree about the movie Catfish! That is exactly what I was thinking of when I read this!

Kate (and Ben)
Aug 01, 2011

Well, I was going to also mention the semi-fictitious "documentary" of Catfish as well for your horrified viewing pleasure; however it seems other people have beaten me to it. Let me just say, "Holy mother of god!!! That is fucking terrifying!!!!"

Aug 01, 2011

That is so creepy, but I hope it doesn't stop you from sharing photos. I guess I'm kind of with you -- I like to believe that people are basically good and will do the right thing. After all, a few weeks ago at the Newark airport, my sister in law left her purse in the food court, and after she realized it and went back (like, 15 minutes later), it was still there. Nobody took it. In fact, someone was standing there kind of watching over it. So, good.

Except for this nutter. She's clearly not good, but, hopefully, now that you're on to her and you've stood up to her, you'll be in the clear. Scary, though.


Yikes!! I suppose if you have to look at the "bright" side, at least she wasn't stalking you -- I guess, in a creepy way, her choosing you for her identity was flattering. (Okay, just as I typed that, a little shudder ran up my spine -- flattering or not, it's creeptastic. And so, so wrong.)

I don't think you can let things like that stop you from having pictures out there, though... even a story like that won't stop me from putting pictures on my own blog, but I'm definitely becoming more and more aware (and more choosy) of which pictures I post.

Aug 01, 2011

I worry about pictures on the internet, too. I post pictures of my baby because people want to see him. But I just recently found out that some family members we are no longer in contact with have tracked down our accounts enough to look at pictures of the baby, and it kind of bothers me. Apparently they are telling other people, "They are keeping us from the baby! We have to look at pictures of baby on the internet!" Yes, because you said horrible things to and about us, we prefer not to have you around our child.

By the way, I am from North Carolina, but I am not middle-aged. OR AM I?

Aug 01, 2011

wow. i'm really sorry. for you of course, but mostly the poor guy she duped. what a horrible thing to do to a person! {both of you!}
i have pics up on my blog - and I'm becoming less and less anonymous, but that's just because I figure that just because there may be one or two crazies out there, it shouldn't prevent me from being authentic for the people who really care.
that's just my take on it.

i'm curious about this car-humping, plant-destroying, hole-digging woman though. do you have a {non-naked} picture of her? she's certainly earned the publicity, no?

Aug 01, 2011

This is definitely disturbing and I'm sorry it happened to you, but I'm so glad you've caught it. I'm also glad she wasn't profiting off you, financially, by stealing your work. I'm especially sorry for the man in this situation, though.

I think that the world IS full of good people, evidenced by the man in this particular situation-- despite his heartbreak and confusion, he contacted you to make things right. And not just once, and he didn't give up until he was sure you understood, and he certainly could have been excused if he didn't do so.

My stories are better for the pictures, and so are yours. You're a great writer, but I'm commenter number 16 on this post and I imagine that those of us who didn't know you before your blog all feel like you could be a friend in real life, or at least we have some sort of (honest) connection to you online. And a part of that is being able to picture our online BFF Holly who has the weirdest neighbors, ever, or favorite blogger with the most awesome haircuts.

There's always a risk for showing who you are, but that's true in every aspect of life. You put reasonable precautions up and you caught this one. The odds (how many hits has your blog had in the last four years to this one nut?) are in your favor, and now you know the legal process, you're rid of her.

(Sorry this is so long. I've wondered, too, and it is scary.)

Amy --- Just A Titch
Aug 01, 2011

Have you seen Catfish? If not, rent it immediately.

Seriously, this is scary/weird/crazy. I'm glad it's been resolved!

Aug 01, 2011

I guess it's one of the downsides of technology. I do get paranoid every now and again but then I try and rationalize it and just let it be.

I mean, we could upload pictures and send it to a handful of people we trust,who in turn send it to a few trusted friends and so on and forth and.......well, there's always the chance of the wrong person getting their hands on the pictures.

That said, it is goosebumpy-creepy to actually have it happen to you, so I'm glad it stopped where it did.

P.S. Fingers crossed this "essay"gets past your spam filter! :-)

Aug 01, 2011

you need to see the movie Catfish. seriously creepy stuff.

Aug 01, 2011

This exact thing happened to my husband about a year ago. He started receiving e-mails through facebook from a woman in Spain, he too initially ignored them as spam. As she persisted he finally listened to what she had to say, that being that some sad little man out there had been using my husband's image as his own avatar. She had been having a relationship with this guy for two years prior to figuring it all out when he tripped up and used a watermarked photo from a family session we had done (he just cropped me and the kids out!). She was able to trace the photo back to the photographer's blog and through there to our personal site. The woman felt terrible and as creeped out as we were (she sent us some of the collages they had made with her pictures and "his" he had sent her) we also felt pretty bad for this woman who had thought she was in a loving relationship with this person who was using my husband's face. It's made me more wary, and appreciative of watermarks, but I'd like to think that there are still enough 'good' people on the internets to make all the sharing worth it.

Nothing But Bonfires
Aug 01, 2011

Yeah, it was totally Catfish. For a while, Sean and I even joked that it was probably the same woman from Catfish — the story was so creepily similar.

Kate in Ohio
Aug 01, 2011

I have recently started a blog and thought long and hard about posting photos. I have decided that I will post photos but not of my children, and I don't post many pictures of me. I also tend to think that most people are decent. I am creeped out and so sorry this happened. I hope this does not stop you from posting pictures in the future.

Aug 01, 2011

Wow. I've heard of this happening before- to Joy Williams of the Civil Wars. http://yettonadventures.blogspot.com/2010/12/this-blew-my-mind.html

Aug 01, 2011

Someone I follow on Twitter just tweeted about a similar problem. Even though I know this kind of thing happens, it's still so shocking to me. I too feel compassion for the perpetrator but what she did was horrendous! I'm so sorry - I can't imagine!

And of course this leaves bloggers like us questioning whether we want to share information online. My name is fairly unique so I use a nickname online and in my blog. I like to think this provides me with a tad of anonymity but I know this is a flimsy shield. I hate to think of not blogging but things like this certainly make you re-consider.

Aug 01, 2011

I've heard of this happening before. Where someone's picture was used in a BILLBOARD advertisement in another country! When used for profit, that's pretty serious. But when used to aide in someone's craziness? Well, that's a little more difficult. And sad. And hopefully a rarity. It's like a weird sort of identity theft.

I guess maybe you should be flattered that she thought you pretty enough to use as her fake personality? :) Sorry, probably doesn't help. Still creepy as hell.

Anytime you share anything on the Internet, there are risks. I've learned this the hard way back when I was blogging a bit more openly about things in my life. Still, I hope it doesn't deter you from sharing your pics, at least on your blog, because they are awesome!

Aug 01, 2011

My M.O. has always been to weigh the potential consequences of sharing against its guaranteed benefits. Every time I get a creepy comment on Flickr or find one of my photos added to someone's Favorites--which are likely to consist entirely of pregnant bellies/long hair/legs in tights)--it's a reminder that what I put out there is indeed being seen by people who are using those images in ways I hadn't intended them to be used. It's a side-effect of sharing myself online, but if I want to keep sharing in that way (and I do), I just have to ignore that stuff and focus on the positive. I really just wish the creeps wouldn't leave their comments as a reminder of all the creeps out there, you know?

There are precautions you can take, ways to be smart about it, but yeah, you really can't control everything, and this is true online as much as it is in real life. In this case, as creepy as that is, having someone use your photos for her online profile seems less awful than someone being obsessed with YOU, you know? Plus, North Carolina is a long way away. :)

Sharone @Zizzivivizz
Aug 01, 2011

Wow. One of the strangest things I've ever heard, and how violating! I'm trying to figure out if it would have been weirder if she knew you...I can't decide, it's all creepy.

I think you have to decide what you're comfortable sharing, but I also don't think you should let this crazy lady dictate that decision and make you afraid. There will always be some weirdo (remember the popularity of your rain boots?), but look at all of us who think you're brilliant and funny and beautiful and yet have *never* stolen your identity. There are some one-offs, but most people are good, and part of that being good is having faith in each other, I think, in spite of the crazies.

Aug 01, 2011

It really bums me out when the crazies come out of the woodwork and put a damper on things for the rest of us. I'm so sorry you are having to deal with such a creepy and violating situation.

I post photos of myself, my husband, my friends & family. However, the birth of my son kind of changed everything. As much as I want to post his photos and document my recent foray into motherhood, my husband and I ultimately decided against it. He's so tiny & innocent and the thought of someone out there downloading his photo (or worse!) just makes me sick to my stomach. I've dealt with people stealing my words before...I can't imagine them stealing my entire identity.

I do put photos of him on Facebook, privately, but sometimes I even question that. However, I do still post photos of myself & my life (minus the little one) on the blog because, well, I think sometimes my writing is enhanced by photos.

It's tricky (and even trickier when you become a mom!) but ultimately, I think people are good. So sorry one of the not-so-good ones caused you strife.

Aug 01, 2011

I'm going to respond before I read everyone elses comments.
First - I'm so sorry this happened to you. Especially to YOU. Because you are so open and trusting with us (the internets) and I, for one, love knowing the details of your life - which is quite glamorous by my standards!
Second - I think people ARE inherently good. If you have, say 1,000,000 readers (or whatever) - this is ONE nutbar. So - the odds are in favor of 999,999 being good people (or at least not that level of nutbar).
Third - Do take care of yourself. Make whatever changes you feel comfortable making so that you can feel free once again to educate, entertain, and delight us (the internets) with your excellent writing and observations.
We appreciate you!

Aug 01, 2011

Everything has a privacy filter. Unfortunately, with our entire "OOOO!!! LOOK AT ME!" mentality we forget that. We forget that not everyone needs to know what we're doing every minute because 1) they don't really care and 2) because that could come back to really bite us in the ass. As a photographer with a website and a couple of blogs, I don't feel the need to put all of my business on Flickr or FB. Well, I do, but I use my privacy settings to block unauthorized people from seeing them. And it's not an all or nothing deal - you don't have to post every picture ever taken of yourself, or insist on a total Internet blackout of your face (you could be like the people on Cops!!), but protect yourself, and consequently, the people you love.

And the copyright just means you can sue her if she sells your image, not that she can't download your images.

Now, for the car humping story!!!!!!

Aug 01, 2011

Holy crap. That is absolutely creepy. And in a strange, creepy way, somewhat flattering...but mostly creepy.

I think that this is just a risk that we have to acknowledge being apart of the internet. Even 'private' photos on facebook aren't really completely private. I wouldn't stop posting pictures if it were me, but it might make me stop and think about which pictures I post.

I'm already pretty careful what I write on my blog,post on FB, twitter, etc. Since I work in the healthcare environment, just a general 'whining/making fun of someone' tweet from me, could start an uproar about patient rights and what not, so I'm extremely careful about most things I do on the internet.

Aug 01, 2011

Oh, and by the way- No, I have never seen a pants-less woman humping a car. If I did, I'd totally take a picture and put it on my blog.

Aug 01, 2011

As wrong as it is to steal the photos and act like she was you, I don't think you need to live in fear and never post another photo again. Clearly she has some issues, and hopefully she knows not to do that again. We live in an age where it's nearly impossible to have our lives undocumented online. Luckily, what happened to you was relatively harmless. She didn't take your identity and wrack up debt or forge official documents. So as long as you keep protecting yourself, it's unlikely that it will happen again.

And I'm kind of excited to hear about the pants-less lady and her shenanigans.

Aug 01, 2011

Sorry you were the victim of this woman's pathology, Holly. I feel sorry for the other victim, too (the guy who furnished you w/ the info as to her little scam). How sad for her to spend her life thusly.

To my knowledge, my photo has never been swiped but I've had people plagiarise me on numerous occasions and one purloined my resume on eLance and ultimately got the job we were competing for (didn't even paraphrase but had been a member longer than I had, so when she swiped my stuff it was more convincing it was hers, not mine).

Do you still feel comfy posting pics? I hope so. I so enjoy your blog. Perhaps you might feel better if you posted only those images which feature your home, your garden, etc. I never use my last name nor my exact location as I'm not secure doing so.

Aug 01, 2011

You know what? I'm of the opinion that people with mental disorders like that will do things like what you've now experienced no matter what you try to do to protect yourself. As a casual reader of your blog and looker-at of your photos (yeah, I like to make up words.. so what? ;) I have no idea where you live (I mean exactly - San Fran is huge!) or where you work. Or what you drive.. or lots of personal stuff. Hopefully that makes you feel better. As creepy as this kind of thing is, stalking is 100x worse. I've experienced it, and it had nothing to do with the internet at the time. Just some random lady who saw me and figured me out over time by watching.. creepy.
So I think you just have to lay some ground rules, put up some firewalls - both internet wise and real-life wise, and just keep being you.
I personally am careful about xif data on my photos, what I'm wearing (like work-labeled shirts), what's in the background (house numbers, street signs), and who is with me, in photos on FB and flickr. I don't even have a blog!
I think most people are good, some are weird, and a few are bad. Do what you can to protect you and your family, be vigilant, and then relax.
Hope you don't get scared away from the interwebs, Holly. I like reading your blog quite a bit.

Aug 01, 2011

That is crazy stuff! We are not asking for this to happen because we share this information. As I was reading your story unfold I kept thinking about that movie Catfish. Have you seen it?

Aug 01, 2011

Humping my car? No.

Humping IN my car? Not recently enough.

Aug 01, 2011

Wow, and I thought I was a freak magnet. You're surrounded!

The lady in your neighborhood would bother as much as the one online, I think. It is way creepy that she passed herself off as you for so long, and I would probably think twice about posting more pictures, but in the end, I would do it. I'm very open with myself and my information and your pictures and blog and information-sharing is priceless for the rest of us. Hopefully it's a once in a lifetime event and yours has now passed. Best of luck with the local lunatic and let us know how it goes....

Aug 01, 2011

Whoops I should have read comments before chiming in...I bet it was that same woman!

Aug 01, 2011

That really stinks that this happened. I have heard about similar things happening before, this is a particularly fascinating incident:


And then here is the blog of the women it happened to:

Really disturbing that people can be that manipulative. I hope that you do whatever you need to do to feel secure again however, I really hope that doesn't mean that you stop sharing your life and photographs with your readers. Your blog is one of my very favorites, your writing so wonderful, and your life so interesting that it would be a great loss. Best wishes!

Aug 01, 2011

I tend to think it's the generation - we share things. Some more than others, but the practice of posting stuff on a more public forum than was available 20 or more years ago is just something that's evolved with time. To say "I won't allow myself to be out there" ("there" being the internet) is just refusing to keep up with the times. How much different is it from allowing yourself to be in a yearbook, or let anyone take pictures of you ever?

Like everything about sharing yourself or guarding your privacy - you take precautions. You make a decision about risks you're willing to take based on the possibility of there being negative consequences, and you generally hope that bizarre stories like this miss you.

Aug 01, 2011

Oh, Holly, I'm so sorry this happened. I've long thought that you are very brave to post so much personal information; I don't have the courage to do that but your personal stories, well-written, and well-documented with such wonderful photos are what make your blog such a joy to read. We've never met and probably never will, but checking your blog is like checking in with a friend to me (except I don't have to look pretty or ride a crowded train anywhere to see you)!

Please don't let this incident undermine your faith that people are good. How long have you been blogging? How many people enjoy this blog? How many have been weird and crazy? I think the first two numbers will far, far outpace the third one every time. Almost all people are good. Every once in a while someone's bad side overtakes them and they do something nuts.

I think your readers, myself included, would understand if you decided to change the way you blog. We would miss your openness and the way it makes us feel connected to you in non-crazy ways, but if you need to make changes, you need to make changes. I hope it can continue in much the same way, but whatever you decide, we thank you for the great "friendship" you've cultivated with your readers so far and really do wish you the best.

Aug 01, 2011

This is definitely not the craziest thing I've read this week. And, if I was going to impersonate someone, I would choose someone prettier and less solipsistic and waaaay less annoying.

Aug 01, 2011

You need to watch the documentary Catfish, pronto.

Aug 01, 2011

I'm with you; it's impossible to block everything from being posted, and it's human nature to want share fun parts of our lives!

Have you heard the RadioLab podcast about a man who unknowingly fell in love with a bot on a dating website? While there was no identity theft in that story, it is somewhat similar and definitely worth a listen! http://www.radiolab.org/2011/may/31/

Aug 01, 2011

NO FREAKING WAY! This one takes the cake. I will never go to a dinner party with you because I will never have a story that compares. Well done... even though it is literally one of the creepiest tales I've ever heard. CREEPSTER!

Aug 01, 2011

This happened to me but the reverse, luckily on a much smaller scale. I mean, I was the one duped. I was on the okcupid dating site and had been messaging back and forth with this seemingly great guy when I was pressing to meet he got really weird and finally admitted the pictures of "himself" were not really him, but one of his "better looking" friends. Apparently I made the grave error of not responding to his actual profile and then decided to try to trick me as revenge. Little did he know, but i had started dating someone when he initially wrote me so I wasn't writing anyone back. It's sad for him, creepy and weird to me, not to mention this "friend" he is using pictures of. We only talked for a month or two but I told this person some personal things and he couldn't even be himself. He eventually confesses the whole thing, I guess he felt bad for duping me. People are crazy and sad.

Aug 01, 2011

Ugh. Crazy. If I didn't need it for my business, I'd drop all social media -- not because of this story particularly, but the general intrusiveness of it. I don't think I'd miss it at all.

Erin @ Fierce Beagle
Aug 01, 2011

The very same thing happened to a friend/coworker of mine, except she was the one who was duped. And when she contacted the guy whose photos were being used (by his female gym teacher—a whole other level of gross), after it all got sorted out, my friend and that guy (the real one, not the fake gal/guy using the real guy's pics) ended up married.

Not sure how they're going to recount the *lovely* story of how they met for the rest of their lives.

Erin @ Fierce Beagle
Aug 01, 2011

PS I live in North Carolina. Is it tasteless to ask who the impostor is? No matter how small the chance, it feels odd to think I might know and interact with someone who is something of a psychopath.

Operation Pink Herring
Aug 01, 2011

CATFISH! was my first thought too. I assume this is the insane internet situation to which you referred on Twitter awhile back? (At least, I seriously hope it is. If you has ANOTHER insane internet situation on top of this, that is just one crazy thing too many.)

Seriously, seriously creepy. Even more so that she had multiple other "personalities." And here I thought at first you were just talking about that real estate agent on Facebook!

Pretzel Thief
Aug 01, 2011

Hol(l)y snakes on a plane! (See what I did there? Okay, I'll pipe down, hee!)

Okay, that story is creeporama...MAAAAN!

Yes, I do get a little paranoid here and there about posting pics on my blog, which I do infrequently...and now I'm feeling even MORE paranoid about two pics of myself I posted last night. Dammit!

It's really sad when people do this. I mean, what else can one say? I'm sorry that it happened to you, Holly, and hopefully there will never be any repeat situations.

Aug 01, 2011

I think Kristin, a few comments above said it well. If you choose to change the way you blog or the experiences that you blog about, it will be a big loss to a lot of us who have so enjoyed reading about you and your life. Your writing is some of the best on the internet, and you are pretty and interesting. Of course she would want to impersonate you!

But obviously, it is YOUR life and you have to do what makes you comfortable.

Franca Bollo
Aug 01, 2011

Your situation is a type of violation and I'm sorry it has happened to you. This on the heels of the woman who rented her place through AirBnB and came home to find it completely trashed. There's always that counterbalance/dark side to anything that seems like a good idea.

Having said that, I think I care more about the pantsless woman and dirt piles. You can leave off the humping part.

Franca Bollo
Aug 01, 2011

PS I just saw your tweet below regarding divorce potential in relation to painting a room. I'm with a man who INSISTS on doing all of the painting Chez Bollo. Fine by me as long as I pick the color. Plus he does all of the grocery shopping. But, the ever present counterbalance: he is really bad at packing the trunk and loading the dishwasher. Of course, he refuses to acknowledge those imperfections.

Sensibly Sassy
Aug 01, 2011

oh wow.
First off, my stomach dropped reading about this so I can only imagine how you felt when this guy contacted you. Honestly I have been living in the ignorance is bliss state of mind as far as my pictures on the internet. Silly I know, but in the back of my head I think why would someone want my pictures?! But apparently there are people out there that will take your pictures and do ridiculous things with them. Hopefully it is a rarer happening than we think

Aug 01, 2011

Okay, I'm going to chime in that I hope this was some random weirdness and that you don't change the way you blog. I enjoy your writing style and look forward to hearing about the exciting life of young marrieds in San Fran vs. my life as a mom of three! My question is, what did Sean think of the whole situation?? Here's to no more weirdness....

Aug 02, 2011

What a creepy thing to have happen to you. I really hope you don't stop posting photos etc, as like other people, I enjoy reading about your life and seeing pictures, but you have to do what makes you, and Sean, feel comfortable.

Didn't this happen to you a while ago as well, when some woman stole your photo to use on a Facebook business page? (And now I seem like a creepy stalker for knowing everything about you!).

Aug 02, 2011

I am so intrigued by this. I'm sorry that it happened to you, of course, but mostly I'm trying to figure out how someone finally unearthed your blog, if she was only using pictures of you and not your name. I mean, how did that go, exactly? Someone Googled "pictures of pretty brunette" and searched through 20 pages of images? These are the types of things that keep me up at night.

In other news! Are you going to San Diego this week for BH11?

Amber, theAmberShow
Aug 02, 2011

Creepy! Oh my gosh! Creepy! Ewww!

The downloading protection on Flickr is a joke. Anyone with a mildly advanced understanding of how photos are stored on the internet can get around it in about three seconds. (Literally.)

Aug 02, 2011

I am probably the only person here who will say this photo-stealing thing isn't really as creepy as it sounds.

She didn't pick you out personally, because of who you are... she just picked a photo she liked off the 'net and used it to contact men online. It's not really about you, about your life, about someone trying to "be" you. It was just a random thing. It's sort of a backward compliment - she thought you were pretty. Now that you've contacted her personally, though, you've opened yourself up to her mental issues and now it may become creepy because she has a way of contacting you.

What's really creepy, however, is someone humping your car with no pants on. Thank god for drive-thru car washes!

Aug 02, 2011

Well, if I were going to try and pass myself off as someone else, you would be high on my list. Just *think* how excited this pseudo-Holly was each time you had a new adventure: she could tell her Internet boyfriend all about swimming with pigs, or hiking the Great Wall in flip flops, or even laugh at the old days of big glasses and baggy plaid shirts. Lotsa great stuff, there.

One thing though: she couldn't steal the best of this blog. It would not serve her purpose to show the pictures of you and Sean in your teens, your twenties, and now your thirties. She couldn't steal the photos of you as a couple celebrating milestones big and small with your friends and family. And, certainly, she wouldn't steal pictures of your engagement, wedding, or family holidays. I see this blog as one big love letter to Sean (and your family and friends, and life in general I guess) which you are kind enough to share with us, your readers, and I sincerely hope that what one crazy woman did to you won't change the way you do things around here.

Aug 02, 2011

skeevy!! I had a passing thought about your celebrity status - she chose to impersonate U coz you are what she aspires to :-)Doesn't make it any less creepy. Glad you have never encountered a stranger who threw something in ur face coz you know....you/she had wronged them. I like pics in posts, could be coz Im sorely lacking in imagination.

Aug 02, 2011

I haven't discovered someone stealing my online identity. I'm sure that if it were to happen to me, it would certainly change how I feel about sharing my photos, which blogs I comment on, and what I share on Twitter and on Facebook.

I have my own guidelines - I don't broadcast where I am in real time and I avoid disclosing anything too obvious about where I live and work. I don't broadcast my relationship status (I have a few very close friends who keep very low key, practically non-existent online presence.)

I've made some great new friends, land many, many more acquaintances. I've learned how to dress better, build websites, accessorize, and do my hair thanks to so many other people sharing. I've been inspired to change my career and revisit my hobbies.

I learned how to make scotch eggs.

I can't imagine *not* sharing, as a way to give back.

It's sad, and creepy, that other people are in such rough straits that pretending to be someone else doesn't even strike them as odd.

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I hope it ends up being an unfortunate but small blemish on otherwise pleasant history of online loveliness.

Aug 02, 2011

That is so creepy! I post pics on my blog, of myself and my kids, and everytime I hear of something like this I basically just cover up my ears and say LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU! because I don't even want to think about it.
Ugh. Sorry that happened to you.

Aug 02, 2011

I had some guy do something like this to me once: he took pictures of me with my dogs, posted them to his website and said they were of his daughter who had died and how he had a bunch of puppies he wanted to sell. It was really, really disturbing.

I wrote to him to ask him to take the photos down and wrote to his web host alerting them that he was using my photos illegally. I never heard back from either of them and I'm honestly not sure if the pictures are still up there at this point.

Definitely feel for you and the poor guy she duped - it is really disconcerting. :( (Also, her husband. !!! The woman clearly needs help.)

Valerie L
Aug 02, 2011

Much of what I post online is "private". More because I have a son, who's father isn't overly involved in his life and so I feel he should have to approach me for information. Rather then just find it on the internet.

That being said, I have many "online" friends that I allow to see my private thoughts, feelings, family photos. Some of these people I have had the pleasure of meeting in real life and have made life long friends through my silly, private LiveJournal. Some of them I have not met in real life, but I trust them.

I think you must go on living your life as you wish. You are a great and interesting person. I love your photos, your decorating, and most of all your humor.

It may seem silly, but I feel as though you are my friend. Though you don't know me at all, aside from a few comments on your blog. I'd be sad to see the photos and anything else go.

cheap air jordan shoes
Aug 02, 2011

I feel sorry for her too. I imagine that she has some stuff going on in her life, that's she unhappy and that it's fun to pretend to be someone else for a while. And a weird, small, compassionate part of me understands that. But the rest of me is fairly horrified. This is stealing. It's common theft! It's seeing something you want that belongs to somebody else and thinking hmm, I'll have that. Apart from all that, it's just really, really creepy.

Aug 03, 2011

I think your previous opinion is correct. People here are generally good, and have good intentions.
You shouldnt start thinking everybody is freaky because one frustrated lady couldnt handle being herself or looking like she does... it's her problem. I do think it's weird but not sooooo bad.

On the bright side: if you were some ugly funny looking girl no one would steal your photos! (too soon to joke?)
Well, I have many pictures online, and I think they bring people closer, they make us look and feel real instead of some letters on the screen, and it some way, it gives us credibility.

ignore any english mistakes, and all best wishes, that this strange period of time finishes soon!

Aug 03, 2011

Not to the creepy extent you described, exactly, but this sort of thing happened to me in 2007, and I wrote about it here:


To this day, I'm not entirely convinced the perpetrator wasn't the blog reader who alerted me to the identity theft. The whole thing was just so very weird -- and so very creepy. It makes me wonder if my face is still out there on other dating sites, but how would I know??

Aug 04, 2011

That is very creepy. As someone who has just started a blog, this is a bit terrifying. So, so weird. And sad. I feel more than a little sorry for that woman, but there's no excuse.

yours truly, melissa
Aug 04, 2011

So creepy!!! I hope this doesn't stop you from blogging and using your photos on your blog. That would be sad...

Aug 06, 2011

Yikes. People are ca-razy! But I already knew that (and clearly, based on your neighbor's pantless humping antics, you do too). Unfortunately, the internet gives those crazies a lot of ways to act out their weirdness. On my blog, I've never used my son's name and rarely include photos (although I've started including more, as I guess I felt -- like others have said -- that it adds to the reader's experience).

I guess the upside is that she didn't steal your identity as in your social security number (or whatever identifying number you Brits use), your bank account, etc..."just" your photos. Way more creepy what she did, but hopefully much less damaging...

Sorry you had to go through that.

Aug 12, 2011

Whoa. That's insane. I just found you thanks to fivestarfriday and thank goodness! That is crazy and good for you for handling it as well as you did. I find that there are photos to share and others to not share. I've not had this experience and hope to heck I never do, but my goodness...don't people get that they are going to get caught? When one lies, they always, inevitably get caught. I feel bad for the dude after 4 years. Wow. HOnestly I don't have anything even remotely coherent to say. but thanks for reminding me why my privacy settings are set so high on FB.

Aug 15, 2011

Um, have you watched Catfish? (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1584016/) It is basically JUST LIKE THAT. A married, middle-aged housewife stole images of other people, created facebook profiles, and then carried on relationships with strangers!! OMG! That is horrifyinggggg!

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Sep 05, 2011

@Luaren yeh I swa catfish, I agree, like holy moly

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Nov 11, 2013

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Nov 11, 2013

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Nov 11, 2013

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Nov 11, 2013

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Nov 11, 2013

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それ自体の必要性考え汚染彼の最大の敵彼のセメントの性質を得るために無知が、彼は分離してきた感じて保持するため神のもたらされます。イエスと同様に素晴らしい他有資格者から素晴らしいニュースだった人の人通常やつで神の存在。神で手、および、必要な電力することができます内部頻繁などこの全面的な一見の焦点とのそれぞれ。神は、私たちの多くを残していないとすべての we'ver は決して潜在的ではない神に自分自身を変換します。どのような我々 の知性は目隠しに配置されているためにオプションを完了します。
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