FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It started as an act of remembrance and reverence.
Nicole Vodicka valued the memorial Facebook page dedicated to her brother Christopher Thibodeau. Thibodeau, a Chief Warrant Officer, was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
His wife was six weeks pregnant when he died. The social media page provided a space for friends and family to post their thoughts and pictures of the fallen serviceman. Then, Vodicka received some troubling information.
“We found three (social media site) profiles that are not him, but have his name and his images,” she said.
Someone had taken the posted photos of Chris Thibodeau, and created fake social media profiles, either pretending to be Thibodeau or tying his pictures with another profile on other social media sites.
“I’m disgusted that someone thinks it’s okay to use his name and images, and portray themselves as him,” Vodicka said.
She went to her hometown police department in Flower Mound and also reached out to Facebook. She says she was told no crime had been committed.
Facebook removed the fake Thibodeau profile page, but Vodicka believes someone is trying to use her brother’s image for illegal purposes.
SMU Computer Science Professor Tyler Moore researches cyber scams and crimes. He says the creation of invalid social sites using fake names and images is prevalent, but he had not seen circumstances similar to the Thibodeau situation.
“Psychologically, it must be devastating. It points to how low cyber criminals can go,” he says.
However, Moore emphasizes, the improper use of someone else’s images are not violations of law, but simply a violation of most social media site regulations. The crime occurs if or when someone uses the images to initiate a financial scam.
“I think the goal is to scam women to send money,” Vodicka believes.
On the social site MeetMe.com, a man named “Robert C” posts his profile and pictures. The images belong to Christopher Thibodeau. They were initially posted on his memorial Facebook page. Nicole Vodicka removed them. She’s afraid someone else will violate her brother’s memory, by stealing his identity.
“Why take these images we hold dear, and do this to our fallen? Why put the families through this?”
A spokesman with Meetme.com said their site has removed the fake profile, and would do the same for any such social profiles that come to their attention.
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