You know how they say you know you’ve made it when someone starts to impersonate you? Well, that’s the positive spin on impersonation. The darker side is when someone pretends to be you for their own material gain: that, dear readers, is commonly known as ‘fraud’. Sadly, a couple of weeks ago it came to my attention that someone (I nearly wrote f**ker there but am way too polite) had written to one of the ‘big three’ skincare companies claiming to be me and requesting product for review. The actual email they sent reads thus:
I’m Lee Kynaston, and I am the Online Grooming Editor for MensHealth: the number one online magazine for men – sex tips, fashion, sport and health advice. We cover a wide range of segments in our website: including Style & Grooming, consisting primarily of fragrance / grooming / hair care and whatnot. We haven’t actually featured any XXXXX product(s) on our website, and we were wondering if this would be possible as we would like to get more scents in for review before the summer. The review would be featured on our fragrance section of our website, as seen here:
Please check it out, and let me know your thoughts.
Thank-you for your time.
Online Grooming Editor.
They are absolutely right to laud Men’s Health but are wrong about the fact that I haven’t featured the product they requested and whilst they have accurately aped my notoriously flaky spelling in their sign off, even I know how to spell my own surname correctly. And who, apart from Jacob Rees-Mogg, uses the word whatnot in 2014?
On investigation it transpired this person has mailing addresses (anonymous suite numbers of course) in both Portland Oregon and in Belfast and is using an email address similar to my own (using the inaccurate spelling of my name). Not only is this person committing a crime by impersonating me, they are also on the wrong side of the law by using one of my employers as a cover.
Let’s be clear about one thing here: in the UK the Fraud Act 2006 makes it an offence to dishonestly make a false representation with the intention of making a gain or causing a loss and laws in the US are equally as clear. The bottom line is that it’s a criminal act.
So, if you are a PR I would ask you to be vigilant and always ensure that the person contacting you for product really is the person they say they are (and if they are not, do as the PR in this case did, and contact your legal team for advice).
If you’re are a journalist or blogger, meanwhile, I would merely ask you to be aware that identity theft like this is an increasing problem, particularly online. And if you do find you are being impersonated in any way contact the police about it immediately. After all, your identity is probably the most precious thing you own.
Mask image from http://www.maskparty.co.uk