News 6 reporter's Instagram photos used in online romance scheme

Erik Sandoval's face used in bogus profiles as Erik Pedro

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Facebook photo sent to Kimmy Pierce Nolan of San Diego didn’t seem familiar, but Erik Pedro,  an attractive oil engineer from Long Beach, California, was interested in her based on her profile picture.

Nolan told News 6 the flirtations messaged to her on Facebook were over the top with a “Hallmark cards” feel to them.

“You’re so beautiful, your profile captivated me,” she recalled him saying.

The photographs of Pedro with his dog Harpo along with his family and adopted sons all seemed legitimate until Pedro sent a photo of himself with his dog via Instagram.

The message had the same face but a different last name: Sandoval, as in Erik Sandoval.

“I had no idea who he really was,” Nolan said. “I saw he was a TV reporter in Orlando, I sent a message through Instagram, 'There’s a man, he’s got your pictures, he’s got your profile.'”

Sandoval admitted he was surprised because he had used the private settings for his Facebook account but News 6 discovered every photo on his Instagram account was public because Sandoval had not used the private setting option on that account.

“The scary thing is, no one else reached out to me,” Sandoval said. “I wonder how many times they used my face?”

News 6 found a Facebook profile from 2017 using the same name, Erik Pedro, and Sandoval’s photograph.

Chris Hadnagy, a cybersecurity expert with Social Engineer LLC , said when you post photos on social media, you leave yourself open to hackers and thieves.

“When you give your information to a third party you no longer have control over it,” Hadnagy said. "It’s not on your device anymore. It’s sitting on their (social media sites) cloud.”

Hadnagy said there is no absolute defense from photo pirates but private settings are a must.

“The answer is not  a popular one,  but if you want to avoid this you have to make all of your social media accounts private, which means the only people who can have access to your information is those who you allow,” he said.

Hadnagy says the con men are looking at posts on Facebook,  Twitter and Linked-In, gathering everything from where you work to your favorite restaurant.

“We call it social engineering," Hadnagy said. “With those three social media accounts I can create a profile on any person and I know everything about you.”

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