DENVER - Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, unless you find 23 fake profiles pretending to be you on Twitter.
Denver resident Talia Haykin was alerted to the first fake profile one week ago, when her friends were tagged in a tweet regarding the Jewish Sabbath. The tweet was on a Wednesday, the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday night.
"Every single Friday, right before Shabbat, we all tweet each other this list and say 'Shabbat Shalom guys,'" said Haykin. "It was very odd that one got sent out on a Wednesday."
What she found was a profile using her cover photo; a portrait of her, her husband and her dog.
"As violated as I felt when they stole pictures of my dog, I can only imagine how violated I would feel when they stole pictures of my children," said Haykin.
The fake account included tweets duplicating her tweets.
"They physically copied and pasted (my tweets) as if they were their own messages," said Haykin. "All of my friends tweeted, 'Don't follow this person, it's an imposter.' And the craziest part was that they started retweeting those tweets.
That was just the first of finding 23 fake profiles.
"What they had done was taken my Twitter handle and added one letter to it. I just went through the keyboard from left to right and used my Twitter handle and added a letter. I found seven the first day and then seven the second day," said Haykin. "Fourteen with my user name and the rest are my physical name and my profile picture on somebody else's username. It was like looking at a picture of yourself, in a picture of yourself, in a picture of yourself, in a picture."
She believes the fake accounts are bots, creating profiles to be able to sell to other Twitter users.
"People are wanting to purchase usernames, they're wanting to purchase followers on Twitter to amp up their profile," said Haykin. "I just started sending tweets out to people, you know, 'I found your username is being spoofed,' and one person actually tweeted me back and said that my message looked like spam."
Haykin says she's spent around seven hours trying to get rid of all the fakes.
The process to get Twitter to remove the profiles is not immediate.
After providing basic information through an online form, Haykin had to provide proof that the photos were actually hers.
"They needed proof that I am who I say I am, and so I had to scan my driver's license and send it to Twitter via a secure website," said Haykin. "They got rid of 14 of them so far. All of the profiles that used this header picture and my user name have been removed."
She'd like to see Twitter adopt a process some bulletin boards use, by restricting access to improper users.
"When they have a repeat offender who keeps violating the rules, they'll ban their IP address and Twitter just doesn't do that," said Haykin. "My frustration is more that Twitter doesn't do any checks when you register."