BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Authorities are now saying a young woman who was reported missing to police last Thursday wasn't actually missing but someone was actually pretending to be her on social media.
23abc's Tori Cooper spoke to police after tracking down 18-year old Idaho resident, Emily Hernandez, who said this is not the first time this has happened.
Hernandez said over the past two years five different people have been caught using her social media pictures to catfish people, and now it has reshaped her entire approach toward the social realm. She said this was the first time someone actually reported her missing in Bakersfield.
She stated this past weekend her sister received a concerning message out of Bakersfield. "It was a screen shot of the article and then she showed it to me and that's how I found out." Hernandez said.
Two days before she caught wind of our article on turnto23.com, Bakersfield police told 23abc news that on August 6th a man claimed he was romantically involved with a 19-year old hispanic woman by the name of Emily Alejandra Fernandez.
"The name said it was Emily Alejandra Fernandez but that's not my name..it's Emily Marie Hernandez" she said.
After reading our article Hernandez said she contacted police, left a message with them over the weekend and then she contacted 23abc news to alert us about what was happening. That's when we called police ourselves.
Police officials initially said the man who reported her missing to BPD also said she graduated from Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield. "I don't live in Bakersfield," after Hernandez and 23abc reported the issue to the police BPD confirmed that Emily actually lives in Idaho.
However, police say the man told police that she was a Bakersfield resident and traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico in February to visit family and that he last heard from her in May. But Emily Hernandez says none of that is true either. She said, "I have never been to Mexico".
Police say they believe the man who reporter her missing was actually a victim too. He was being catfished, the Police Department said they are not pressing any charges against him.
Sgt. Robert Pair, the spokesperson for the Bakersfield Police Department said, "There was no ill intent in presenting this information to the police department although in the end it ended up not being a valid missing person."
But Sgt. Pair says after locating Emily out of state, determining that she was ok they closed the missing persons investigation but they are still searching for the person who was pretending to be her on the internet and Hernandez said this is the fifth time this has happened in two years after she started getting popular on Snap Chat, Instagram, and the Facebook.
Hernandez said, "So I had a lot of followings and then as soon the catfish account started happening I had to delete all my accounts, go by my middle name, and make my new accounts private."
And she says she hope this story can help serve as a reminder to everyone to think before you post and secure your accounts. "Really to be more cautious about what you post and who you talk to and who is getting your pictures because of the some of the fake accounts that were made of me were from people who were either my friends or people that I knew of because they knew information about my parents, sister and my other friends and they would purposefully use my first name and my last name to tell people they were me even though it wasn't me." she continued.
Now the original article on our website with a picture of Hernandez and the missing person description have since been updated after she contacted us about the issue. Hernandez said even though she has never used any dating apps this experience has completely shifted the way she is around pictures and unfortunately she still knows that there are more catfish accounts out there with her picture on them.
If you believe you are being catfished contact BPD at (661) 327-7111.