After going through a number of these, I thought it might be best to put up a version of it, for not only me to refer to, also my contacts.
The verification process (which thankfully doesn’t involve you handing over a copy of your passport or driver’s license — no need to reveal your date of birth, phone, or address) comes in different forms and have been a means of dissuading the temptation to ‘catfish‘.
Zoosk uses a video to verify an account holder in relation to the photos they have provided. While on Reddit it has a variety of forms which mostly have a Redditor holding up a piece of paper with their handle.
1.) Move to a secure communications app
My current preference is Wire because it doesn’t limit you to a phone number (or the kind of device you can use the app) and they not only bring in an external auditor, they also make the audit reports available publicly.
A recent alternative for me is Keybase. The advantage it has over Wire is that it works similar to blockchain (your devices are connected, and you essentially use them to verify another if one gets stolen).
2.) Request a verification photo
If you’re a Wire user, request your conversation partner to print something like this on a piece of paper:
“If you’re not seeing this as my digital fingerprint, you might be chatting with someone else: (insert string of letters and numbers here — it’ll be a total of 32 pairs: a number or a letter and a number)”
You can find their device ID and fingerprint by clicking their username (the one at the top of your chat screen rather than in your contacts). If your conversation partner is wanting to know where you got those numbers, mention that it is accessible via settings (under devices).
(This is also a good time to check if the devices you are using currently reflect what’s listed —- if there is an extra…just take it out.)
Then ask for the sign to be crumpled then to take a photo with it (it’s going to be a challenge…but hold fast and make sure that you’re satisfied that your conversation partner is in the photo!).
- If using two devices (or more!), you can use one to take a selfie to include your conversation thread (you just have to copy and paste the fingerprints)
- Ask the person to paste the string of numbers in a word processor and use that to take a selfie with
- Writing their digital fingerprint manually (they still have to crumple the piece of paper before taking the photo)
3.) Ask for social media feeds
Twitter and Instagram would be the best ones to go for (something with their name and photo posted publicly). Remind the person that it is about everyone involved….that if you can have something to get an idea of how they think (even if tweets are all of cute animals — at least if you get something different than it…you’ll be alerted that someone else may be in control of the account)
The pros of getting this information is that if something has happened to their Wire account, they could easily use a tweet to give a heads up.
Want an even extra layer? As the person to tweet out a phrase (or answer a question uniquely).
Whatever happens, stick with your guns! Remember, you’re searching for your fifteen! 🙂
For me all three applies no matter what media presence my conversation partner has. I think going through the verification (particularly a photo with their key fingerprint) is even more essential for those who lead a public life (no matter what degree) as they have at least one of their photos out in the world. Remember that no one is immune to hacking, even those with verified Twitter accounts (Vice’s post has a tweet embedded from Geraldine that borders on the ‘M’ spectrum).
Yes, your conversation partner may try to attack you on the complications your asking them to do. Interestingly, if they do…what does their behaviour communicate now? Just remember to be patient and answer questions. If you feel baited at any point just move on.
Disclaimer: Yes! There is still a risk when you’re trading verification photos (since your conversation partner would likely request one of your too), your photo might get stolen in transit (which is why the use of a more secure app like Wire or Keybase), or you might accidentally share it online…and someone uses it to be you (though I’m not sure how they could wiggle their way on explaining that their fingerprint doesn’t match the one on their device!).
It also doesn’t mean that the person you’re speaking to is 100% trustworthy. Remember to still stick to your privacy protocols. Whether it’s as small as giving them Give them little tests while you are getting to know them.
- Thanks to Roy (I’m waiting for his go ahead before I share a link to either his site or any of his social media feeds) for encouraging me to do a stand-alone verification piece.
- A version of this piece had been published on Buzzfeed. They recently had implemented changes on the content policy for contributors, which meant that that piece and all of my other pieces no longer fit on the platform, and have since been taken down.
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