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"hey, just to let you know, someone is pretending to be you on FB"

I received a text on Facebook Messenger from a girl named Alina, who wasn't on my friends list. Three screenshots followed. The first showed a Facebook account by the name "Mister Frost". The bio read, "21, freelance photographer and model", with the location set to Wisconsin and relationship status set to 'single'. Underneath, I saw various photos of me I'd shared on Facebook and Instagram posted on the page, and some where I was with friends. The last screenshot showed a Messenger conversation with the Mister Frost account, with a picture of me smiling as the profile.

"Good morning," read the first message. My heart began racing as I looked at the chat bubble next to my face.

"morning xx" read the reply.

"How is my baby girl doing today?"

"fine, and you?"

"Just thinking about you dear"

"aww you miss me??"

"Always missing my bunny"

I felt nauseous. Digging through the settings on my Facebook and Instagram, I set everything to 'private', then tapped back a message to Alina.

"Thanks for letting me know. Could you send me a link to the account so I can report it?" My message was read almost instantly.

"couldnt find the account this morning" she replied. "i think they deleted it. this sucker scammed me out of $500"

"I'm so sorry. Have you called the police?"

"yeah they said theyll look into it"

"I can Paypal you the money?"

"noo omg dont worry about it, its not your fault"

"You sure?"

"yea ofc"

"Okay, lmk if there's anything else I can do to help."

"its good i just wanted to lyk what was going on"

"Thanks again, appreciate it and sorry this happened to you."

As you can imagine, I had a lot of questions, but thought it best to not interrogate Alina any more. She had notified the authorities, and I assumed whatever needed to be dealt with was in progress.

That night, I tossed and turned as I scrolled through my followers and friends list, thinking about who the perpetrator could be. Was it even someone I knew, or just a random person who stumbled across my page? Perhaps I'd never find out.

A few weeks passed, and just as I had started putting the incident behind me, I was greeted by three loud knocks at my front door.

"This is the police."

The time I stole a candy bar from the corner shop, when I punched a kid in the third grade; every sin I had ever committed flashed through my mind as I got out of bed and walked towards the front door. What could I possibly have done to make the police show up at my apartment out of the blue?

Two officers greeted me at the door. I invited them inside, where they explained the situation.

A fourteen-year-old girl had gone missing in Delaware after being groomed on an app called Discord. She had been chatting to an account that went by the name 'Frosty', who was apparently a sixteen year old boy living in the same area. The account had sent her some of my photos from when I was a teenager, and the missing girl had arranged to meet up with Frosty at some location. She hadn't been seen since - her parents reported her missing two days previously.

I immediately brought up the catfishing incident Alina told me about and offered up my electronics. I'd never used Discord or had any contact with this girl, which was evident from their search. They asked if I knew anyone who possibly could have done this, but I was at a loss when it came to accusing people I knew. They reminded me of the possibility that it could have been a complete stranger, as my profile was public at the time, and they advised me on setting them to private, which I told them I had done after the first catfishing incident. Then they thanked me for my time and left.

I shut the door and stood in silence for a minute, rattled. The gravity of the situation slowly sunk in as I processed what had just happened. The same nauseous feeling returned, this time bringing me to the point of physically retching. A predator had lured a girl using my photos. Needless to say, this was bad. Seriously bad.

Despite having set all my online profiles to private, I hastily deleted every photo I had ever posted in a panic. Hundreds of pictures, years of memories, gone in minutes. No way was I risking my face ever being used again for something so sick. A girl was missing, possibly having been assaulted or even murdered. Undying curiosity, anger, and paranoia overwhelmed me. I wanted nothing more in that moment than to know who had done it, and see them brought to justice. A wave of terror swept over me when I imagined people I knew, friends, family, my boss and colleagues, mistakenly thinking I had groomed and kidnapped a child.

I sent a message to Alina.

"Hey Alina, hope you're doing well. Sorry to bring this up again, but something serious has come up related to the catfishing situation. Could I ask you some questions?"

The message was read quickly.

"omg what happened?"

"Police showed up. A 14 year old girl went missing, someone catfished her with my old photos."

"can i call you right now on messenger?"

"Sure."

She called, and I picked up.

"Okay," she said in an appalled tone, "What the actual fuck?"

"Yeah, it's sick," I replied, "came as quite a shock."

Silence on the other end.

"Hello?" I said.

"Yeah, sorry, I'm still here. I was just… you sound a lot different to him. No wonder I thought his voice didn't match your face."

"Ah okay. You called him?"

"We talked almost every night," she paused. "He said we would move in together one day."

"Motherfucker," I spat. "How did you meet him?"

"I met him on this online gaming forum when I was sixteen. He said he was seventeen, and we talked about games, school, and hobbies, mostly. Then we friended each other on Facebook. We called and texted more often," she paused. "Things got… sexual. He said his parents were abusive and got me to send him money for food and stuff. I sent one of his photos... well, your photos, to my friend. She posted it in a group chat, which she later apologized for, but anyways, someone in the group thought the person in the photo seemed familiar. I don't know if they knew you or something, but they eventually found your Facebook and told me about it. That's when I messaged you."

"When did you first meet him?"

"Four years ago."

"Four years?!" I shuddered.

"I know, I'm an idiot."

"Nah, don't blame yourself. You were a minor."

"I still should have seen the red flags," her voice shook. "He didn't really talk like someone our age. He always gave excuses for why he couldn't video call, and he apparently didn't use Snap."

"Did he ever ask you to meet up?"

"He suggested it a few times, but I never did. I was afraid my parents would find out. I never told him where I lived."

"Thank God," I said. "Who knows how many kids he's done this to."

"Yeah, it's actually disgusting. What did the police say about the girl?"

"Well, the bastard used my photos to catfish a fourteen year old from Delaware, I think. Called himself Frosty, which makes me think it's the same guy you talked to. They met up, and now she's gone missing. Her poor parents are worried mad, and there's an AMBER alert out now. The pictures they showed me were really old ones I had up on Insta, one with my dog Benji and a mirror selfie I took when I was like, sixteen or something."

"Oh my goodness," gasped Alina. "That could've been me. That really fucking could've been me."

"If he met you on a forum, he could have been talking to other kids too."

"I remember he was, for sure."

"You remember what he sounded like?"

"Higher pitched than I expected, a little croaky. Sounded like he had a blocked nose all the time."

"What kind of things did you talk about?" I asked.

"Other than the cringey love and sex stuff, just video games and his fucked up family, which he probably lied about. He said he was really good at skateboarding."

"Shit," I said, "I was pretty into skateboarding in high school. Makes me think it's someone on my friends list."

"It could be a coincidence. He sent me a lot of photos of you skateboarding."

"True, I did have a few of those up. The police said it could have been anyone, really. My profile was public at the time. Didn't think anyone would do something like this."

"I know, why are people like this?"

"Seriously."

"Still, do you have any ideas who it could be? Anyone that stands out?" She asked.

"A couple of people, I guess. Just people that didn't like me in high school. Or even random people on my list who are just weird. But nothing I can think of that's enough to make me point fingers, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, makes sense."

"Did you manage to take any more screenshots of the account or your chat?"

"I… yeah," she said sheepishly. "Do you want me to send them?"

"If you don't mind."

She sent two screencaps, one where the Mister Frost account had sent her one of my shirtless bathroom selfies, the other was of the chat where he wished her a happy 17th birthday.

"Sorry," she mumbled. I stared at the picture, wide-eyed.

"I've never," I began, "I've actually never uploaded that picture. Never sent it to anyone either."

"You sure?" she asked.

"Yeah, one hundred percent."

"Maybe you got hacked?"

"It's possible. I've still got the old phone I had at the time with me, like, the photo is still gonna be in the camera roll. But I'm positive I didn't send that to anyone."

"Then you've got to check that phone. Might be helpful to tell the police too."

"For sure," I said, already ransacking my apartment trying to find my old phone. "Well, sorry to make you re-live all this. What you've given me so far is really helpful. I'll keep you updated."

"Um, it's good… well, you're welcome, and I hope you find this freak."

"I will, and they're gonna pay."

I hung up, and spent the entire day searching through drawers and boxes. That old Samsung phone was hiding in the back of one of my drawers, and was eventually uncovered. To my surprise, it booted up quickly once I stuck a charger in it. I managed to find that shirtless mirror photo in the camera roll, among other photos I'd forgotten about (and would rather have not remembered).

I found a cyber-security guy working locally and got him to check the phone for anything malicious. He returned it the next day and said he hadn't found anything. Unsurprised, I went to the police and told them about Alina's catfishing incident, and the fact that someone might have gotten hold of my old phone, leading to them getting that selfie I had never shared. Part of me did hesitate, as I realized that I could end up putting suspicion on myself - who else could have sent that? But I thwarted the doubt, as solving the mystery was the main concern, especially with a girl's life at stake. They thanked me for the new information.

"Was there anyone else who could have accessed your phone?" the officer asked.

"Haven't used it in three years, but I don't think so. I had it checked for malware and apparently it was all fine."

"Did you live with anyone at the time?"

"I was living at home with my parents and my sister when I used it. Really can't see them doing this sort of thing, though."

"Sure, was it just them?"

A thought popped into my mind. I stopped.

"Sir?"

I kept quiet as my knees went weak. As it dawned on me, I felt the blood drain from my face. No, surely not, I thought.

My sister and I used to visit our grandparents on my mom's side on the weekends. They lived a couple of streets away in their own house. Mom often sent them money, and worried how they might not have enough for retirement, but they said it wasn't a concern. Sometimes we visited together, sometimes only one of us would go.

We loved to visit - grandma baked us cookies, and grandad would give us snacks and tell us how much we'd grown since the last time we saw him, even if we looked the exact same. He was always asking me how to use the computer, how to do this and that on his smartphone, and I was happy to show him.

When we talked about him, we'd sometimes confuse him with our other grandpa from our dad's side, who lived in another state and was also a big character. To avoid confusion, we gave him a nickname which he seemed pretty fond of. He was really pale, had a big red nose, and always wore a yellow scarf and buttoned-up trench coat. So we called him Grandpa Snowman.

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