Let Joe Know: Know the status of your online identity - East Valley Tribune: Business

Let Joe Know: Know the status of your online identity

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ABC15 Investigator Joe Ducey is Arizona’s consumer alert expert. Watch his reports weekdays on ABC15 at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., and email him with questions or news tips anytime at jducey@abc15.com.

Posted: Sunday, November 24, 2013 7:51 am

Whether on Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, we are plastering snapshots of our lives all over the Internet.

But what happens when pictures and images that you thought were private show up somewhere you never intended?

Shows like MTV’s “Catfish” have brought these types of situations to our collective awareness, by helping people discover the true identity behind potentially fake online profiles.

It also inspired Valley resident Betsey Banker to do some sleuthing of herself.

“I thought, you know, I’d have a little bit of fun and use one of my most common images,” she said.

It’s like Googling your name, but with a picture.

Banker uploaded her picture and says, at first nothing odd showed up.

But then she ran across a link that didn’t make any sense.

“And there was my photo front and center,” said Banker.

She was shocked seeing her face with a fake name, email and even a glowing biography — on a website she had never heard of.

“My first gut reaction was I need to email them and tell them to stop using my photo, Banker said.

“But I really wanted to find out if they were running some king of scam operation.”

So she let me know.

And what I found out was just plain odd.

The website is for a human resource company called The Hiring Equation.

It looks like the real deal with job listings, previous clients, even a place for potential recruits to put all their personal information.

So we called them. Sent emails. Even reached out on Facebook. But I got no response.

The website says they are based in Ontario, Canada.

So we asked Canadian TV to find them, and they did. The company address is actually for a house.

There was a woman standing outside and she denied our request for comment.

We kept digging, and found the Ontario Ministry of Government Services has no record of a business license for The Hiring Equation.

One of the companies listed as a client is Sears. Sears Canada spokesman Vincent Powers tells me they’ve never done business with the company.

He adds, “If the Sears Canada logo is there, it should be removed.”

Here at home, local attorney Mitchell Resnick says this is a warning to anyone who uses social media.

“You are potentially increasing the risk of your likeness and name and other information about you being spread across the world in a nanosecond,” Resnick said.

And if you do find your picture anywhere it shouldn’t be, he said to contact the company immediately and request they cease and desist from using it — otherwise they may be liable for damages.

After our constant emails, The Hiring Equation eventually removed Banker’s picture.

As well as those of her supposed colleagues.

Who knows? Banker may have stopped those guys from being catfished, too.

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