‘Caughty Doing a McNaughty’: All the times I’ve been copied, impersonated and generally ripped-off online

In the wake of the recent Shoeper-Gate scandal, my wonderful (and hilarious) friend Juliet suggested I start a new blog. It would be called “Stealing Amber”, and would document all of the people who try to pass themselves off as me on the Internet and get caught – or who are ‘Caughty Doing a McNaughty’, as Juliet called it. (She needs to start a blog herself, doesn’t she?)

Well, as much as I love this idea, I realised I already have more blogs than I can handle right now, so I decided to give this subject its own category here at Forever Amber instead. (And if I’d known when I started blogging that I would one day need an entire category, just to document the Amber Imitators out there, I’d have… actually I have no idea what I’d have done. Laughed, probably. And then maybe deleted my fledgling blog in sheer horror.)

Anyway, to celebrate this new category, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of all of the times my identity has been stolen online, so here, in chronological order, are all of the people who’ve been ‘Caughty Doing a McNaughty’…

1. The ‘Milkbubble’ Scandal

August 14, 2009: Someone calling herself “Milkbubble” posts my photo on a Sonic Youth forum and claims it’s a photo of her. Another member of the forum spots that the photo has been hotlinked from my blog, and tells me about it. When challenged, Milkbubble (who is a “little trouble girl”, to be sure) claims it was a “social experiment” and that on a male-dominated site (“It’s a maaaaaannnn’s wooooorrrllllld!”), she felt she “needed sex appeal” to be accepted. Everyone else on the forum wonders aloud why, in that case, she didn’t choose to steal a picture of a hot chick instead? Ouch.

2.  The ‘Susan Veltri’ scandal


October 2nd, 2010: Someone claiming to be called ‘Susan Veltri, female’ posts my photo on a writers’ community called She Writes, and claims it’s a photo of her. Or rather him, because it later transpires that ‘Susan Veltri’ is a man posing as a woman in order to get real women to phone him and discuss what it might be liked to be attacked. And this just in: the Internet is creepy.

She Writes never responded to my email to them about this, and I couldn’t work out how to delete the profile I was forced to set up to complain directly to “Susan” instead. They continue to spam me to this day.

3 – 10 (Approx) EBAY, GAH.

October 2009 – present day. My friend Lindsay contacts me to let me know that I’m now modelling false eyelashes on someone’s eBay account. This is, indeed, news to me, but I go and check and sure enough, there’s my face! On eBay! Awesome!

A few weeks later, my lips pop up, too:

They are soon joined by my legs:

To this day, various body parts of mine continue to appear on eBay with worrying regularity. At first, I used to contact the people and politely request that they either pay me for the use of my images or remove them. After receiving a particularly rude reply from one such seller, who apparently believed she had the right to use my body parts any way she liked, and discovering that eBay really couldn’t care less if they tried, I gave up on this, and now just allow myself to be plastered all over eBay at sellers’ whims. When your identity is stolen as often as mine is, you learn to pick your battles.

11. ‘Libby’


February 26, 2011: Someone calling herself  ‘Libby’ starts a really, really bad blog. In the ‘author’s profile’ section, she posts not just one, but TWO photos of yours truly:

Don’t be fooled, though, readers: far from being “just a regular girl” (who can’t spell), my sources tell me that ‘Libby’ was, in fact, a very irregular guy, and that by “loves to make new friends”, Libby meant “loves to steal photos of redheads and claim they are him”. So that was creepy.

When cornered, ‘Libby’ apologised for stealing my images. Because that makes it OK.

12.  SHOEPERGATE

 

April 2011: Someone uses the same name  as my shoe site, Shoeperwoman, and tells me she “[can't see] much in common between the two sites” other than the name and the fact they’re both about shoes.   Oh, and she tries to trademark the name, too. I call in the lawyers, and spend lots of money trying to stop her: I eventually win, but lose some of my faith in humanity in the process.

 

13. THE LIN SHUIDENG SAGA

 

In May 2011, a Lin Shuideng, based in China, stole 500 posts from Shoeperwoman.com, complete with photos (many of which were of me personally), and used them to set up a site called “Discount Shoes”. We filed a DMCA with the webhosts and had the site removed… then, a few days later, it was back up, with a DIFFERENT set of stolen Shoeperwoman posts (again, around 500 posts were stolen), on a different domain. So we complained to the new hosting company, and that site was removed, too. Then, a couple of days later, another one sprung up, also owned by Lin Shuideng, and also using 500 posts written by me, plus photos. Naturally, we complained to the host of this site, too, and it was removed, but then, a few days later… you can fill in the rest yourself, can’t you? Suffice to say that this went on for around three weeks, with Lin Shuideng stealing my content, us having the sites removed, and new ones springing back up. Lin did eventually give up, but continues to rip off other bloggers on a regular basis.

14. CHIC.COM

Also in May 2011, we discovered that a site called Chiq.com had republished around 40 posts from Shoeperwoman.com, complete with images. The content had been uploaded by one of the site’s users, and the site owner did agree to remove it all, however, some damage had already been done, as the stolen content was ranking higher in Google than the originals, and had been there for God knows how long before we discovered it. We weren’t amused.

15. EBAY, AGAIN

In the most blatant use of my images on eBay yet, in June 2011, this seller used photos of, not just my feet or eyelashes, but of my WHOLE BODY, to try and sell boots on eBay. She used three photos of me in total, all of which were watermarked with the URL of this site, but when I contacted her she said she “hadn’t realised they belonged to someone” and that “It wasn’t like they’d have helped her sell the boots anyway.”  This is fairly typical of eBay sellers who steal images, I find.

16. STOLEN TEDDY BEARS

In June 2011, I wrote a lengthy post about stolen teddy bears, which I illustrated using images I’d taken myself. The very next day, all 2,000 words of the post, plus all of the photos, turned up on a site selling teddy bears. They’d placed adverts all around the post, so were presumably hoping to make some money from the stolen content. Nice, hey? Must be awesome to be able to make money from other people’s work without having to even ask their permission first! I left a comment on the post, and it was removed the next day. I’m still waiting for my apology/explanation…

17. “I’M SORRY MISS AMBER!”

June 2011 was a bad month for McNaughtiness, for, in addition to the two incidents above, I also discovered this Facebook page:

The profile picture is a photo of me: in fact, it’s the same profile picture I use myself, on the Shoeperwoman Facebook page. The word “Shoeper”, meanwhile, seems to suggest that this page is connected to Shoeperwoman.com in some way, and, indeed, if you’d clicked on the profile picture to look at the other photos this user had uploaded, you’d have found the Shoeperwoman.com banner, which also appeared on the page. Misleading, much? Well, I thought so, and I contacted the person to tell her as much. Here is her response:

“im sorry miss amber, im one of your admirers. it was really not my intention. im sorry again. i remove your photo and also change my name to shoe instead of shoeper. i was not impersonating you but just got your pic in your web because i find you so pretty with those shoes beside you. it was a misunderstanding. i have not respond to any of your message because it was just now that i have check and open my facebook. again im sorry miss amber. :(“

So THAT’S OK, then!

18. Albert Martino

In September 2011, Albert Martino of Wilkes-Barres, PA, set up a company called Hot Igloo offering web design and internet marketing services. This is a problem for me, because I already own a company called Hot Igloo. Which ALSO offers web design and internet marketing services. (This is my husband’s business, so I don’t take much to do with the day-to-day running. It is our limited company name, however, and Terry’s primary source of income.) Essentially, Albert Martino has just duplicated our brand, presumably in the hope of stealing our internet traffic and clients. Awesome guy, Albert. To date, Albert has resisted all of our attempts to speak to us about this, which seems to confirm the idea that he has done this maliciously: he even went to far as to block every country in the world, with the exception of the US, from viewing his Facebook page after we tried to use it to contact us. Sadly for him, Facebook removed that page when we complained to them: we’re now in the process of taking legal action to put a stop to the rest of his endeavours to destroy our livelihood.

EDITED TO ADD: I watermark all of my images, but it doesn’t stop the theft because the impotors crop out my face – I’d have to place the watermark over my own face to deter them. And right-click disable is completely useless because it’s too easy to just screenshot instead. So the theft goes on…

 

And that brings us up to date.

All of the above people were Caughty Doing a McNaughty. Who will be next? Tune in to find out…

(P.S. Have you caughty someone doing a ‘McNaughty’? I’d love to hear about it…)

Hi, I'm Amber. I'm a full-time fashion/shoe blogger from the UK, and this is the story of my life, my clothes, and the International Man of Mystery Next Door. You can read more from me at my other blogs, The Fashion Police and Shoeperwoman, and you can follow me on Bloglovin' here.

27 Comments

  • Reply April 22, 2011

    Diane

    Really unbelievable. Must be especially creepy to find your body parts (so to speak) on eBay. I remember you writing about each of these instances, but to see how many there have been… it’s just so strange.

    • Reply April 22, 2011

      Amber

      Yeah, it even surprised me to see them all written out in a list like that. As for eBay, I actually think I got off lightly – Gemma has had full-length photos of her used twice on eBay now, by people selling dresses. The last time the seller said she “didn’t realise the image belonged to someone”. Unbelieveable.

      • Reply April 22, 2011

        Diane

        Ugh, really? Poor Gemma. And yeah, right, eBayers, don’t all pictures of people belong to “nobody”…?

        • Reply April 23, 2011

          Amber

          Exactly. I think Gemma’s response was something along the lines of “It’s a photo of a PERSON. How can it NOT belong to someone?” And that case was even worse because it looked to me like the person was selling as a business through eBay. I mean, imagine setting up a retail busines and then stealing someone’s photos!

          From what I can gather from the eBay sellers I’ve contacted, they honestly don’t see anything wrong with it, and eBay don’t either, because they refuse to remove the photos, even if the person is illegally using a photo of your face. One seller I emailed sent me this huge rant about how she was just a poor person trying to make a bit of extra money on eBay, and I, Evil Amber, was standing in her way. I pointed out that what she was doing was misleading, because she was using a photo of a pair of brand new shoes (With me attached to them) in order to sell a pair of used shoes – I know if I’m buying on eBay, I like to see a photo of the ACTUAL thing I’m bidding on, not something else that just happens to resemble it when it was new, but she just got belligerent so I gave up. I don’t even bother now – the sellers are abusive and eBay don’t care, but even although it’s just a pair of legs, or eyes, or whatever, I just can’t fathom using someone else’s personal photos to sell something online. I get the feeling that’s just me, though!

  • Reply April 22, 2011

    Karen "KC" Carney

    WOW!! That is INSANE!! I wish there could be something done about stealing images. If certain sites removed the option to right click and save picture as… it would be a great start.

    • Reply April 22, 2011

      Amber

      Right-click disable doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference, unfortunately: if someone wants to steal an image, they can just screenshot it instead, and on Windows 7 there’s a scissors tool in the task bar which makes it even easier. There are also disadvantages to disabling clicking, and it can really annoy genuine visitors. If someone is determined to use your image, they’re going to do it.

  • Reply April 22, 2011

    MsVeve

    Wow, cannot believe how much of this has happened to you! Especially the men pretending to be women part is totally creepy, yikes!

    • I agree, this is all so so wrong! How can nothing be done to stop any of this?

      I don’t know how you can talk about it with so much humour Amber, it’d creep me out!

      I do find it amusing though that the response to the ‘Milkbubble’ photo thinks you aren’t a ‘hot chick’ – clearly you are, especially seeing as so many people seem to want to look like you and are passing themselves off as you online!

  • Reply April 23, 2011

    Tali

    Amber, I’ve been thinking.. maybe you can write kind of a guidance to people whose identity gets stolen. Like, what should you do. For some people (me) it might not be obvious to take screenshots, for example. Well, just an idea))

    • Reply March 15, 2012

      Laanki

      This is a good idea! If something like this would ever happen to me,I wouldn’t know what to do.. I’d be too freaked out to think clearly :)
      It’s amazing how you handle those creeps and weirdo’s and opportunists.

      • Reply March 15, 2012

        Amber

        I actually started writing a series on it a couple of weeks ago – didn’t get much interest, though, so I didn’t bother finishing it :(

  • Reply April 24, 2011

    Leigh

    Wow. A lot of these are beyond creepy. D:

    On a lighter note, have you considered licensing your likeness to various entities for promotional purposes? There’s apparently a demand, haha. (Have I made that joke before? I kind of feel like I make this joke each time you’re copied, but I don’t have any new jokes, so it stays.)

  • Reply April 24, 2011

    mandi b

    http://www.wedding-steps.com/page/119/

    another?

    • Reply April 24, 2011

      mandi b

      Oh no – it wasn’t the header image….whoops!

  • Reply April 26, 2011

    annet

    i remember the milkbubble thing… i even think it was me who told you about it. she disappeared quickly after people found out :)

    and the ‘little trouble girl’ means that she’s new to the forum, it’s a sonic youth song title and it refers to the number of posts you have… it goes up to bad moon rising, 100%, the end of the ugly, invito al cielo etc :)

    anyway, it sucks to see this happen to you so many times. and it sucks even more that there’s so little you can do about it!

  • Reply April 26, 2011

    Anna

    Another funny thing about the guy suspected to be “Libby”. He got into a huge fight with my best friend (and me too, because I am friends with her and therefore her evil minion) over her being “evil” and “stealing” a photo, when in fact my friend had actually asked for and received permission from the photo’s owner to use it. Strange, because he clearly didn’t bother to ask Amber permission to use her photo to PRETEND TO BE HER.

    • Reply May 26, 2011

      Vicky

      Are you serious?? It was that same guy?! What a hypocrite! >:(

  • Reply April 27, 2011

    Deb

    Amber,

    Your outfits inspire me, your articles make me laugh and your photos take my breath away.

    I am usually a silent admirer of your work, and this being my first comment on you blog I feel it comes late.

    Today I am here just to say that we will be always here for you, reading what you have to say in spite of an URL. Please never stop to write as we are not ready to let you go.

    Your fight is our as well, and if there is a petition or anything to sign, even someone’s cast…i will… :)

    If someday you have to open a new website named SoapWoman or Soupper-Woman and talk about soup or soap I bet almost every single person here still will be there for you.

    Love your blog, the good, the bad and all the things in between…

    xox

  • Reply April 28, 2011

    Cookie

    Uh, unfortunately I am having some troubles with identity theft too. There is a “creature” in Turkey who stole a whole bunch of my photos (some from myspace, some from Facebook, some through my modeling portfolios), and is pretending to be me. She made a fake Facebook account with my photos, and blocked me so I can’t see or report her myself. The Facebook people are doing nothing about it, and there is no way to find a direct email address to explain the situation to them.
    She also stole my modeling and Djing nickname and registered as me on Formspring (the Formspring people, meanwhile, were very helpful and blocked her account, and then I took over my own name). She promptly made a new one, using my picture again.
    She also submitted the photos with a turkish modeling agency and on one of their social websites.
    The social site blocked her once, though she just made a new account (again, with my pictures) and is now even so bold as to post the link to my Formspring account on facebook and the other social website.

    • Reply April 28, 2011

      Amber

      OMG, that is terrible! Seriously, Cookie, I would call the police about this… that’s gone much further than someone just stealing a photo and thinking no one would find out: am absolutely fuming on your behalf! Let us know how you get on.

      • Reply April 28, 2011

        Cookie

        Well, since we are different countries (and both lagging behind on internet crime solutions) I doubt there will be much use in going to the police. Today I found out she made another account on another Turkish social site, again using my pictures. She also uses pictures of my friends, makes fake profiles for them, and then befriends them.
        I had a caller (I work in customer care) yesterday who had a similar problem and went to the police with it, and they told her there isn’t a lot they can do. But I might just give it a try. Or just go straight to the turkish embassy here. Perhaps they can do something? I’m really not sure what my options are.

        • Reply April 28, 2011

          Amber

          I really feel for you, that sounds like a dreadful situation to be in. Do you have any idea who’s doing it?

          Hmm, I’m not really sure what you’re options are either given that she’s in a different country, but maybe try speaking to a lawyer? My experience is that they will often provide advice for free, so you could perhaps get a clearer idea of what you can do? Or is there some kind of citizen’s advice line or something you could call? It must be pretty frightening to have someone do that to you, I honestly can’t even imagine how you must be feeling – the internet can be such a scary place sometimes :(

  • Reply April 30, 2011

    Jeannine

    I’m behind you all the way. I can’t believe the nerve of some people… I guess people to behaving like rational, nice human-beings is a thing of the past…

  • It’s true . Some people using the picture of the other person. They don’t respect other privacy, We need to expect the unexpected activity.

  • Reply July 26, 2011

    Mary

    Wow, those people are super creepy. lol.

  • Reply January 9, 2012

    Courtney

    OMG you have actually scared me now! I just put my face up on my blog for the first time, convinced that it was ok but you may have just changed my mind!

    How do you watermark your images?? I think I need to do this from now on.

    Thanks for the eye-opening post.

  • Reply May 9, 2012

    Tanya

    Ugh, just saw this news story which reminded me of all this. Another case of someone picking a random picture from the internet and using it to advertise their products, without bothering to get permission from the person who owns and/or is featured in the photo. But this time it’s making headlines because it’s a picture of Madeline McCaan (the little girl who went missing during a family holiday in Portugal back in 2007).

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/madeleine-holiday-advert-utter-disgrace-110547018.html

    It doesn’t look like this high profile case is going to bring much attention to the wider issue of copyright infringement online though. According to this article the McCaans (via their spokesperson) believe it to be a “sick joke” and I suspect that is what most readers of this story will assume it is rather than realising it’s a particularly striking and hurtful example of someone acting as though images posted online are free for anyone to copy and use.

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