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'Zombie profiles' appearing on dating apps; how to protect social media after you die

Posted at 6:26 AM, Jan 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-24 08:26:56-05

Zombie profiles are a growing problem for people logging on for love with dating apps.

This happens when the identity of a deceased person is stolen and used to trick people on dating websites. It's a growing problem with members of the military who've passed away. 

Dating app expert Darren Shuster says the people behind them are most often operating out of west Africa. Often times their methods are called E-muleing -- they'll send you a package or a cell phone and you end up transferring illegal funds to a third party. Sometimes the crime ring is so deep, they even follow up with a fake investigator who also takes your money.

Part of the burden now is on dating apps now building new layers to help verify users. 

"It takes a little bit of work, but at least you're not dating somebody who died seven years ago," said Shuster who says Phresh dating app is trying something similar to Snapchat to help verify a user is real. With Presh, your info disappears every 24 hours and you have to upload a new picture -- you can't use your camera roll to do it. 

The concept of zombie profiles has more people looking to protect their pictures and information when they've logged off for good with a social media will. 

Facebook will shut down or turn a profile into a memorial page and you can set a legacy contact to manage it ahead of time. Google lets you make a plan if your account goes inactive for a certain period of time and then sends alerts to the people of your choosing. Twitter requires proof of death, and will shut down a profile, as will Instagram. 

You need to let your loved ones know whether you want your digital footprint erased or not, because scammers are watching. 

"You need to guard against sharing too much information on any social media. In particular, Facebook because they can grab family photos. They can grab individual photos that might just work," Shuster said. 

Sites like MemorialzeMe, Afternote and Rocket Lawyer will help you create messages and identify who to send your passwords to if you die.

If you have a will, create a master list of accounts and passwords for your lawyer to keep until the will is read.