Jun 26, 2012

Identity Theft Via Social Media

Imagine for a moment that you are perusing through social media channels and come upon a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account and see yourself in pictures that you never remember taking. There are updates stating you are at certain events and functions that you never attended. And tweets with strange words you would never, ever write.

Identity theft doesn't just happen with financial information. In the age of new media, it can happen with the photos we post to social media channels as well. Even private Facebook photos are in danger of being stolen if put into the wrong hands.

Years ago, I fell victim to someone who was pretending to be someone she wasn't. She had several identities on several Twitter accounts, posing as various celebrities, family members, friends, etc. She reached out to me with her main stolen identity, Rachel London, and tweeted to me nearly every day.

This was before Twitter verified celebrity accounts, and seeing all of the pictures she posted, I naively believed her. So did thousands of other people, including fans of the celebrities she pretended to be.

When she decided to have one of those celebrity profiles turn on me and started attacking me, my name and my reputation, leading the thousands of fans to do the same, I became suspicious and did some digging. That led to this very lengthy post, in which I revealed her lies and identity theft.

Thankfully, I cleared my name and those accounts were either abandoned or shut down by Twitter. I kept track of where she was, however, and have known for some time that she's been tweeting under the name @Team__Jackson. She is posting most of her photos under the name LakersGirl22 on Instagram.

Rachel's latest stolen identity. A pretty, Asian blonde.

I've kept an eye on her antics, and knowing that she's scammed people out of money in the past by claiming to have cancer, I've waited to see if she does something similar with this account. She hasn't yet, so I've kept quiet save for a few tweets every now and then letting people know what she's up to.

But I kept thinking about all of the people that she is duping now. All of the people that believe her lies and really think Russell Brand is talking to them via her or that she's shoulder-to-shoulder with Lady Gaga on her tour in Australia. That she works at Interscope Records (I happen to have great respect for Interscope and am honored that they follow me on Twitter...I don't want their reputation in any way sullied by this woman as mine was). But most of all, that she is a pretty, young, Asian blonde.

She is none of the above. She is a woman in her late 30's (possibly 40's now), living with her parents in Tustin, California (at least she was when this all happened years ago). Her name is Rachel. I know her full name, but I am hesitant to reveal it here. And she looks nothing like the woman whose photos she has stolen to Photoshop onto other bodies to perpetuate her lies.

Rachel (using the woman on top's identity) supposedly getting a piggy back ride from a friend.

She has gained reputable followers such as ABC7 Eyewitness News and The Black Eyed Peas. She receives replies from others who are enamored by her supposed celebrity connections. She has possibly made friendships with people who she could turn on at any moment as she did with me, and hurt their credibility with her lies. I use the word "possibly" because most often, those who reply to her are really her pretending to be yet another person.

I am hoping that someone out there might know who the woman is that she is pretending to be. That is my number one goal in writing this...the second being that this will put a stop to her current fake profile (though I know she will just start other ones, and when she does, I'll just keep exposing them).

I'm sure whomever the real woman is would not only be upset at having her identity stolen, but also wouldn't enjoy being associated with tweets such as this:

"do u ever watch corn to kill time @ work? 'whats corn?'me 'its when u watch sexy time with a bucket of popcorn'tard"
And this:

 "we should make uniporn vids cuz we so horny"
Can you imagine if someone was posing as you, using your photo, and associating you with such strange tweets?  Yeah, neither can I and again, that's why I'm writing this.

A particular bad Photoshop job from Rachel. Note that the woman on the right appears to have no body.

Below is proof for her current followers that she is not who she claims to be and is stealing photos as she's done in the past. She is also somehow faking her location on Foursquare, Twitter and Instagram. I googled a bit and found that there are apps that allow you to set your phone location to anywhere in the world, which would then throw off the location data for the social media channels she's posting on.

So, a woman in her late 30's to early 40's can sit in her parents' living room in Tustin, California, and pretend to be "halfway around the world" as she put it, hanging out with Lady Gaga's entourage in Australia.

Without further ado, here are the screenshots my husband and I grabbed of some of her Photoshop creations. I honestly don't have the time to track down the URL's for all of these so I'll just post the ones I can find really fast (I saved most of the real pics from my phone so I don't have the URL for all of them). Remember, she is not really the Asian blonde in the pictures...that's the identity she has stolen and the face she is using for these photos.

Click on any photo to enlarge:

To the left, a tweet/Instagram photo of Rachel pretending to be with Lady Gaga at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne, Australia. The real picture to the right is from the Hey Gaga Gallery.

To the left is a photo that Rachel posted where she was supposedly with the star of True Blood, Alexander Skarsgard. To the right is the real photo. Notice that the real photo wasn't even with the Skarsgard. She photoshopped his head as well. (You can see the URL for the real photo on the right at the top.)

One of Rachel's favorite tricks is to zoom in on a photo or crop it in some way to make it less recognizable from the original. Here, at the top of the photo on the left, she says a crowd is gathering outside the Park Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, where she supposedly is, waiting for Lady Gaga's arrival. To the right is the original photo from @FoxMelbourne.

Here, Rachel got a bit sloppy. Both are photos she posted. On the left is Luna Park in Sydney, Australia, where she claimed to be. However, when she went to Photoshop herself in front of the face, she accidentally used a photo from Luna Park in Melbourne, which as you can see, looks completely different. Not to mention the Photoshop job was not the best as the left side of her face is drooping badly.

To the left, a photo Rachel posted of Gaga arriving at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne. To the right, the real photo from @alexcamenzuli.

To the left, a photo Rachel posted of a fan waiting outside of the Park Hyatt in Melbourne, waiting for Gaga's arrival. To the right, the real photo from @SoniaMarinelli.

To the left, another photo Rachel posted of herself supposedly with True Blood actor Alexandar Scarsgard. To the right, the real photo.

Again, the face is almost always the same (the Asian blonde). Some photos, however, are others who look similar to the blonde that she doesn't even bother Photoshopping. Here she supposedly is at a zoo in Australia:

And here she is on that same day, closer up:

Obviously the close-up warranted a Photoshop job and if you compare the two photos, you see that the outfit is the same, but the face and bangs are completely different.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. (Ha! "I'm so punny!" One of Rachel's favorite sayings).

If you recognize the blonde in these photos, PLEASE contact me via email here. And please, when using social media, be very careful who you trust and believe because I am sure Rachel is not the first to do this and she certainly won't be the last.

Update: Was just told by a friend connected to the earlier identity theft case that Rachel is 32 years old, a 1998 graduate of Tustin High School in Tustin, CA and is still living in Tustin with her parents. If anyone is interested in filing a complaint for the stolen photos, most especially the person she is portraying...if she is found, I will be happy to give you her full name via email.

Update #2: As of July 2, the Twitter account @Team__Jackson has been removed (most likely changed to another name) and the Instagram account has also been changed (which means the links in this article no longer work, which I was expecting to happen). This woman's identity is still being used by Rachel in photographs under another account, however, so please still spread the word to help try to find out who the woman whose identity has been stolen is. Thank you!

Jun 5, 2012

How NOT to Treat High Blood Pressure

Photo credit: Morning Calm News

I recently took a trip to Colorado with my husband to visit his grandmother. Before we left, Matt went by the pharmacy to pick up my blood pressure medication for me because I had run out the day before we were leaving. I had sent a refill request to my pharmacy the week before because I knew it required permission from the doctor and that sort of thing takes time.

When he went to the pharmacy, however, my medicine was not there. The pharmacy said they sent a request to my doctor, but he never responded. We needed to leave at 6 am the next morning for our flight, which put me into an emergency situation.

My blood pressures at times reach around 167/118, levels which are considered Stage 3 High Blood Pressure and require treatment. I was not comfortable with the idea of possibly reaching those highs for even one minute, much less for several days, and my doctor himself had advised me in the past not to let that happen because it causes damage to arteries and vital organs.

After several calls to my doctor's office, dealing with the nurse's attitude (Nurse: "You are supposed to request refills 48 hours in advance." Me: "I know. That's why I had my pharmacy contact you last week." Nurse: "You'll be fine without your medication for awhile." Me: "That's not what the doctor told me."), I finally had to call the doctor on call at 9 pm (who was not my regular doctor) and get my medication filled at a 24-hour pharmacy. She had no problem calling it in immediately.

Me, tired, stressed and pretty rough-looking at one of my many other doctor visits.

My doctor, however, appears to be under the impression that not only did he fill it (he didn't), but that it required a return to his office (why?), and that he has no idea why I am taking this medication (high blood pressure, which he has been treating me for for years) and doesn't know if he is even the doctor who wrote the original prescription (he is.)

I was already upset that getting my refill had turned into such a hassle...the stress and worry certainly were not good for my blood pressure...but to come home and find this error-ridden letter from my doctor was very infuriating!

Dear Dawn,

Please help me help you.

Nobody like (sic) emergencies. You recently called for a prescription and requested same day turnaround. While I completed this order for you, you should know that I had to return to the office specifically for you in order to complete this.

I do want to remind you of my prescription refill policy. Prescription requests are fulfilled in 48-72 hours. I feel this is a resonable turnaround time for patients taking chronic medications.

Please consider making your requests in a more timely manner in the future.

While reviewing this medication, I note that I've not refilled this for you in some time (ever?) and that I don't have an indication for it listed in your chart. I presume it's for blood pressure. I do have some questions regarding why it's used for (sic) and who prescribed it previously and so, (sic) I'd like for you to follow up with me upon your return.

As someone who suffers from several chronic medical conditions, I can attest to the fact that dealing with doctors, pharmacies, prescriptions, etc. can sometimes feel like more of a hassle than the conditions themselves. The last thing a patient needs on top of health problems is having something like this thrown at them.

I figured I had been a pretty good sport about him and his office not handling the refill situation properly and was going to let it go. But to be sent a letter chastising ME for all of this? Unacceptable.

Not to mention how troubling it is that the doctor who has been treating my condition and was the one who put me on this medication has no recollection of it and apparently has such poor record-keeping that it's not even in my chart.

One of my high blood pressure readings.

I debated how to handle this situation and was very close to trying to find another doctor. But I have had this doctor for years and he usually is very friendly, compassionate and kind. And trying to find another doctor would be another hassle in itself.

So I decided the best thing to do would be to write a letter in response:

Dear Dr. X,

You recently sent a letter to me that has raised several concerns on my part. In it, you stated that you completed a prescription request for me that had a same-day turnaround and that it required you to return to your office specifically to complete the order. You reiterated your prescription policy which requires 48-72 hours notice. You also stated that you are not aware of filling this medication for me previously, that you have no indication for it in my charts, and that you presume it’s for blood pressure.

I am aware of your prescription policy, which is why I had my pharmacy send a request to you several days before I needed to pick up my refill. They informed me that they sent you the request but that your office never responded. This put me into an emergency situation as I needed to go out of town at 6 am the next morning and did not have any medication left.

As you are aware, emergencies such as these sometimes arise, and I would expect my doctor to be able to handle such a situation, especially when it was not my fault but apparently a fault of your office for not responding to the original request in the first place.

For context, there was an insurance mishap on a different medication of mine a few months ago and my doctor who prescribes that medication immediately called the pharmacy that same day to fix the error for me without it being any sort of issue or problem. It did not require a trip back to her office, but merely a simple phone call to the pharmacy.

Secondly, you did not complete the order. After calling your office several times that day, during regular hours (and finding that you were not in the office), I had been told you had been contacted and would be handling the issue. However, that evening, the prescription had still not been called in.

I had to phone the doctor on call (not you) around 9 pm to have the prescription called into a 24-hour pharmacy for me (again, without a need to drive to any office first) and my husband picked it up on his way home from work at approximately 12 am so that I would have my medicine for my trip and so that I would not have to worry about my blood pressure going too high while I was out of town.

While this was upsetting to me and caused me much undue stress and worry, I tossed it up to the fact that there might have been miscommunication and/or some other such issue that prevented you from handling this situation. Coming home from my trip and finding your letter to me, however, was a bit unnerving to say the least and I don’t quite understand the need for it. (I won’t even get into the grammatical errors in it which are concerning as well.)

What I am most concerned about though is the fact that you are not aware of discussing my high blood pressure treatment with me (which we have discussed during several of my visits, including my last one which was just two months ago), and that you had to “presume” the medication was for my high blood pressure.

How is the treatment for my blood pressure condition not in your charts when this has been an ongoing condition for me for years? I have brought you written records of my blood pressure readings, and have been told by you that it’s very important to take my medication or it will be “my heart and not my kidneys” (another condition I suffer with…kidney stones) that I will have to deal with in a few years.

When Altace was dropping my blood pressures too low, you switched me to Lisinopril. At my last visit two months ago, after I discussed with you that I was still having drops that were concerning, you advised me to cut my dose of Lisinopril in half (which has been working).

My previous insurance required that the Lisinopril be filled via mail order and I was sent a three-month supply by them, which you approved. Because it was a three-month supply, and because my dosage had later been cut in half (there were also times in the past I had to skip doses because of the drops I was having), it has been awhile since you last filled this for me. It has, however, only been approximately two months since we discussed my high blood pressure condition and my Lisinopril treatment/dosage.

I do not feel that is fair to me to charge me $20 to come in and clarify all of this for you, and I do not understand how this information is not in my medical chart. If you can take the time to chastise me in a written letter for something that was not even my fault, I hope that you will also take the time to explain this situation to me as well.

You have been my doctor for several years and have usually been very kind and helpful, so I want to give you the chance to explain this, hence this letter.

I can be reached by phone or email (listed above) if you prefer, and I will be happy to discuss it in person without being charged for it, despite the fact that my time is precious as well.

Thank you.

Hopefully, my doctor will respond with an apology and explanation and not with defensiveness. It's almost like dealing with a relationship whereby you want to be the dumper and not the dumpee. I am aware that he may very well "break up" with me himself, which would be pretty infuriating. And the last thing I need is more stress or to be "under pressure" (get it?) as one of my favorite stress-songs goes:

But I have decided the hassle of trying to find another doctor is not something I want on my plate, and he has been a good doctor in the past, so I am giving him the chance to make this right.

And you better believe if he doesn't, I will make sure everyone knows about it.