Imagine writing a 200 page manuscript, your life blood poured into it and just as you are about to send it off to your publisher a burglar breaks into your home, steals your stereo and your manuscript off your desk.

Devastating? For sure but wait – the burglar then sends iyour manuscript to a publisher he knows and publishes it with the burglar’s name on it. A far fetched idea? Let me tell you my story. My analogy would be heart-wrenching to be sure and maybe the comparison makes my situation seem less important but nevertheless Intellectual Property theft hit me hard.

December 23, 2011, 8am – I was writing Tweets to my 160,000 followers on Twitter, sending out business tips and what I thought were some cool quotes when an official looking message caught my eye. I was asked by Twitter if I wanted my account Verified (meaning acknowledged and certification by Twitter). It’s early, without my morning coffee, I’m tired and maybe had one too many Chardonnays the night before but I responded to ‘Twitter’ and within 20 seconds of my message I lost my Twitter account. I had been hacked, phished, ripped off by fake twitter!

Lost – 3 years of building relationships, connections, laughs, tears and it was irretrievable.

Michael Vilceanu
Michael Vilceanu

A 14 year old sociopath, Michael Vilceanu (I tracked him down), from the US, who fancied himself a record producer scooped my account and I gave him the passwords. Realizing moments later, that I had been foolishly duped I contacted Twitter who contacted my ‘burglar’ because as soon as he got into my account he changed the password and the email address attached to the account. Twitter wouldn’t help calling it privacy policy. There was no way to contact my followers and tell them it’s not me. Vilceanu changed the name of the account and instead of business tips etc, my people were getting the musings of a 14 year boy with delusions of grandeur. Many scratched their heads and asked where is that Bizzo character.

Some people felt bad, some understood my grief and others said “what’s the big deal?” It is and was a big deal. I had built a brand around my name, becoming known internationally as a business coach and mentor and interviewed by radio and television. Since social media consulting is a main part of my business, I felt like my world had collapsed. This kid had done it before and continues to steal people’s intellectual property (IP) aka identity. At last count he stole someone’s account with 4.8 million followers.

In my case IP is calculated in dollars, $200/hour for consulting, tweets worth $100 each, connections worth thousands and lost deals worth lots of money. I even helped change the law in Ottawa. I hired a lawyer, contacted the kids family, and even went to Seattle to speak to the FBI and the CIA (since it was international theft). They all said “your out of luck”.

You can take something like this and play out the victim role, go after the guy in court or suck it up (after a suitable period of mourning) and start over. It took me three months to go back on Twitter but I took the situation as an opportunity to be a better social media guy.

So why write about it now? I told myself when I reached the 100,000 Twitter follower milestone I’d consider myself to be ‘back’. Seriously, I think it took that much out of me that I couldn’t deal with it until Mark on this blog suggested I write about it. Thanks Mark, its cathartic!

 

 

 

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