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Help File: Removing a fake Facebook profile

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Someone created a Facebook profile for me without telling me, including my picture. How do I get that removed?

A: Although Facebook might have more than 500 million members, that leaves many people who don’t have an account on that social network.

And since Facebook doesn’t ask for data to verify your name when you open an account — say, providing a credit-card number — it has no direct way to confirm that you are who you say you are.

So, unfortunately, some Facebook users seem to take sport in creating fake profiles. The Palo Alto, Calif., company’s tech-support discussions frequently feature complaints about this kind of misconduct.

If a well-meaning friend sets up a profile under your e-mail account (which might be the case with this reader, considering the profile’s use of her Yahoo address and innocuous content), you can try recovering the account by resetting the password at www.facebook.com/reset.php.

But if it’s a malicious, phony profile, Facebook recommends flagging it by clicking the “Report/Block This Person” on the left side of its page. That will bring up a window in which you can identify such offenses as “This profile is pretending to be someone or is fake.”

The only sure way to prevent this sort of impersonation might be to make sure you’ve taken charge of your own identity online.

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis likes to tell the story of how he began blogging in 2006 when he was dismayed to see random news stories lead off Google’s search results for his name. Five years ago, building one’s own Internet brand might have been a necessity only for boldface names — but it’s starting to look like a task as essential as getting a driver’s license.

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook’s board of directors. He also has a Facebook profile that I know to be genuine.)

Rob Pegoraro

© The Washington Post Company