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Are online ‘young Trump fans’ catfishing identity thieves?

All these young, metropolitan-looking Trump fans all take their avatars from a stock image site – do they exist?

On August 6, Donald Trump quote tweeted praise from “Nicole Mincey”, a black woman with the Twitter handle @ProTrump45 and links in her bio to buy Donald Trump merchandise. Aside from the fact that retweeting praise is generally considered a cardinal sin online, the other strange element is that it’s highly likely that this person, with 150,000 followers, does not exist. The tweet from Nicole Mincey has now been deleted and her account suspended, but prior to suspension the account attempted to change its username to @alexandriam0ra.

The picture used in “Nicole Mincey’s” Twitter avatar was actually lifted from a stock image website called PlaceIt, with the model’s skin lightened, perhaps to hinder Google reverse image search.

As Twitter user @Schooley noticed, many of these pro-Trump accounts purporting to be young supporters take their avatars from PlaceIt.

On August 6, once PlaceIt realised that so many accounts were taking stock images from its site, it reported all the fake account to Twitter, something that may have led to the suspension of “Nicole Mincey”. A pro-Trump user called @RioGrande_Ins (see above) also appears to have been suspended.

Fake accounts and bots are rife online – see the thousands of sex-bots that have take over Twitter in the past few months – but what’s odd is the news coverage on “Nicole Mincey”.

Heavy.com ran a now amended story on Mincey, first published on August 5 and then updated 24 hours later. The article, titled “Nicole Mincey: “5 Fast Facts You Need To Know”, initially described her as a hardworking entrepeneur who grew up in poverty and started her own pro-Trump merchandise company.

Right wing site The Daily Caller also ran a positive piece on “Nicole Mincey”, but with no quotes from the subject. WorldNetDaily published an interview with Mincey, although the picture they’ve provided for her seems to be a different person to the one on Twitter and the quotes very vague.

As of today, the Heavy.com article has now been amended to reflect that somebody contacted them to say that their identity had been stolen. Update below:

“Heavy has removed the name of the real college student linked to the Mincey persona online from this report after she responded to a reporter and claimed that she is the victim of identity fraud and Facebook hacking, and that someone else used her real name and Facebook account to create pro-Trump websites and social media pages in the name of ‘Nicole Mincey’.

The college student whose identity is linked online to the persona first asked Heavy to stop using her “real name” and then claimed her Facebook was hacked and her identity assumed. She also said she plans to take legal action against the person who stole her identity. She said she is “not even interested in politics” and does not sell Trump merchandise or “have anything to do with Trump.” The woman told Heavy she will be filing a police report alleging identity theft on Monday.”

It’s impossible to say whether Donald Trump knows that he’s retweeting praise about his presidency from somebody who likely doesn’t exist, but given his love for railing about fake news in this surreal era – he was tweeting about it just hours later – you’d think (or hope) he’d be more rigorous about fact-checking.

“Nicole Mincey” is purportedly a pro-Trump black woman (come on, how many pro-Trump black women are there?) and, if as looks likely, this identity has been constructed (by who we aren’t sure), it will have been done so to fit a narrative – that ex-Democrat, hardworking black women can be Trump fans. The account has now been suspended, but you cannot underestimate the impact that a pro-Trump Twitter account with 150,000 followers that gets retweeted by the President will have on voters.