Ore. man discovers impostor posing as him online

BEAVERTON, Ore. - Ronnie Duke found out about his "doppelganger" by chance.

He's a web developer in Beaverton. A friend sent him an e-mail with a link, asking if he'd gotten a side job.

The link lead to the website of another web developer in India, who was using Duke's picture and claiming to be him, though under another name, "Gelasio Freeman."

"Somebody is wearing a suit of me and prancing around pretending to be me," said Duke.

Duke said he speaks at national web developer conferences. He said the impostor's web development portfolio shows low quality work.

"That could damage my reputation that I've worked so hard for," said Duke.

Duke said he sent the impostor an e-mail asking him to take down his picture.

"No response," said Duke. "I feel like this thing is happening, but my hands are tied and I can't do anything about it."

The Problem Solvers contacted the impostor as a customer, asking for a quote on a website. The impostor agreed to talk on Skype, but claimed his web camera was broken, so he could not show his face.

The impostor told the Problem Solvers that "Gelasio Freeman" is a fake name. But he insisted that the picture of Duke is one of his former co-workers living in India.

"That is one of our designers' pictures," said the impostor. "Working one year back."

The Problem Solvers asked Duke to join them in front of the web cam so the impostor could see Duke's face.

"It's my picture on your web site and I have never worked for you," said Duke.

After a long pause, the impostor finally answered. "I don't have words to say," he said.

He said he used Duke's picture as a marketing strategy to dig up American clients.

"I was trying to get business from there," said the impostor.

He said he got the idea from call center workers in India who use American-sounding names when dealing with American customers. He said never thought he would have to talk to his customers face to face.

Attorney Mike Cohen in Portland says there are laws to help protect people in Oregon, allowing them, in some situations, to defend their "right of publicity."

"Right of publicity laws are the kind of laws that prevent somebody from slapping Taylor Swift on the side of a cereal box without her consent," said Cohen.

Cohen said you do not have to be a celebrity to utilize the right of publicity protections.

For example, Duke could send a letter to the web site that stole his picture and to the site's internet service provider telling them that they can't use Duke's face for commercial purposes without his consent.

At the end of the Skype conversation with the Problem Solvers and Duke, the impostor agreed to take down Duke's picture and to not to pose as other people on line.

"I am sorry," said the impostor. "It is my mistake."

"I will not do in the future this kind of a thinking," he added.

Cohen recommended that you take steps to protect your pictures on line, like using a service that makes it harder for people to copy your images.

A hard-working thief could get around the image protections, but they might serve to discourage thieves, not unlike putting a locking bar on your steering wheel.