picpaktypingCome gather, ladies and gentlemen, and I will tell you a tale of how one rogue commenter led to a story of harassment, slander and impersonation, and what happened next.

Those of you that like to read the comments may have noticed someone named “give up”. We’ve all had our share like people like them: they leave a few rude comments, get their kicks and move on. I successfully bit my tongue from replying to these comments; after all, don’t feed the trolls. This one, however, took things a little bit further.

The following events happened within a couple hours, and were deleted minutes after they occurred. I made an attempt to keep things as low-key as possible. After all, one infuriated post by a fan could have made things much worse.

He had replied to Wednesday’s comic saying he had “fixed” it. He posted a Photoshopped version of the comic where Wakky blows up, and put my face from the About page¬†on Charlie as he pointed and laughed. This was unsettling, to say the least. I realized that this level of obsession could lead to stalking, or even worse. At this point I should say if you don’t have a real-time stats plugin for your website, you should install one immediately; you never know when it’ll come in handy. (I use Wassup, in case you’re wondering.) I had marked the comment as spam and took a drastic measure: I banned both his IPs, one from a university and one from home.

Shortly after this he had managed to access the site anyway and sent me an email. I’m not even going to paraphrase it for you. Let’s just say it was so vile and putrid, Louis CK wouldn’t even read it.

Then things got even worse.

giveup_facebook

As I logged on Facebook I started receiving notifications saying “Kim Belding commented on Picpak Dog‘s post”. My first instinct was that I had gotten hacked; however, this doesn’t make sense, as I use a two-step verification system that requires my phone in order to log in from a remote location. Turns out he had created a new Facebook profile impersonating me and posted his comic on Picpak’s page. Before I could find out more about his profile, he had deleted it.

Needless to say, by this point I had reported him to the university and his ISP for abuse, with proof he was using both IPs for these actions. I was genuinely scared that I was going to come home from work with my site hacked. As of tonight they have yet to reply.

Finally, I received one last email. He is a mature man with a family, who had been put on a certain medicine and has been unwell ever since. As someone who had been in a similar situation himself a few years back, I understand where he is coming from. His IPs remain banned, just in case another incident occurs. Events like these are very serious and should be dealt with professionally. I hope and pray that he receives the help that he needs, and I hope that you do too.

giveup_comments_noipThe comments in question have been taken down from the site. The IP address has been removed for security’s sake, but they are all the same.

The lesson here is to never take your website’s security for granted. I would have been helpless were it not for my real-time stats and the information they provide. You won’t know when it really matters until it’s too late. And don’t forget to secure your social networks, too. Ironically, I had only set up the two-step login this morning.

Also, don’t judge a person until you know all the details. I for one did not expect the story to end this way. It truly is saddening.

Have you had a similar incident? Let me know in the comments, and we can talk.