A fitness trainer laughed it off when she found out people were using her Instagram pictures to find dates on Tinder.
But Sarah Harker soon realised there was a much darker side to the fake profiles.
The 32-year-old, from Newcastle upon Tyne realised the stolen snaps could be “extremely dangerous” to her business and relationships.
She said: “I first received a text from my friend with a screenshot of the Tinder profile and I laughed.
“If I’m honest I was more offended that they put my age at 38. But once I shared that picture with my 7,000 followers on instagram people started messaging me to say they’d seen me on other sites.
“Whilst it could be seen as a form of flattery it’s also extremely dangerous for my business as people may believe that these profiles are a representation of me and I have no idea what is being said in messages being sent from these accounts.”
For Sarah, who is in a relationship, one of the scariest moments was finding out a scammer had used her photos to arrange a date.
She said: “One message I received said this catfish was trying to arrange a meeting. That’s when I lost all humour about it.”
Sarah was made aware of 12 different fake profiles set up using images of her on holiday in a bikini and snuggled up with her border terriers, Baxter and Dougal.
The images were lifted from her Instagram page @sarahlouskitchen where she promotes her lifestyle and fitness coaching and nutritious home-cooked recipes.
They were posted on multiple apps, which made it difficult to deal with.
She said: “I was on Bumble and Hinge as well as Tinder.
“I found it disturbing to realise just how dangerous this could be and that people could be talking to these profiles believing that it was me on the other side of them.
“I don’t like to think that my face could be used to put someone in a potentially dangerous situation.”
But when Sarah contacted all of the dating apps to let them know that she was being impersonated she says she was told by Tinder on their live chat facility that they couldn’t do anything unless she was a member and reported it directly.
Sarah said: “I shouldn’t have to be a member to be able to report a profile that was falsely impersonating me.
“I was seriously concerned that these profiles were able to be set up without any form of identification being used.”
Sarah decided to create accounts to report the scammers – but worries that more could crop up at any time.
She added: “Knowing there are so few protections in place when you are cloned online has left me feeling really strange about the world of social media.
“These platforms should be implementing more stringent checks for security in this day and age to protect everyone involved.”
“If someone believes they are being impersonated on Tinder, they should contact our support team with relevant details here. From there, our team will promptly search for and remove any matching profile.
“Additionally, we encourage our members to look for the ‘blue tick’, which indicates that the member’s profile image is genuine and has been verified by Tinder, through our Photo Verification programme.”