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The horrifying moment these mums realised their children’s photo’s had been stolen and shared on other social media profiles.

One Mum shared when her daughter was just two years old, she was stalked by a stranger who collected all the happy family snapshots Nicola had posted online — and re-posted them on more than ten fake social media accounts, interspersed with shots of a pornographic model of the same name, wrote Daily Mail.

Nicola, 33, from Bromley, Kent, says: ‘I used to post sweet snaps of Lucy in a new dress or playing with her toys on my Twitter feed, which only had about 200 followers, including lots of friends and family.

‘Then one day I got a notification that a complete stranger was re-tweeting my photos. When I looked, this person’s feed was full of them. I couldn’t tell who it was as the profile picture was a cartoon character, the location was given as Canada, and they used weird, made-up names.

‘When I sent a message asking why this person was using my child’s image in such a disturbing way, they never replied.’

Panicked, Nicola, blocked the account only to find more kept popping up over the next month, on both Twitter and Facebook, with some using her child as the header picture — until eventually she had to call in the police.

Nicola says: ‘You think: “There are billions of pictures of kids out there, why would anyone take an unhealthy interest in mine?” But then it happens to you. It was terrifying. I felt like I was being watched constantly.’

Another Mum-of-two Gemma Hawkins, was shocked to discover how her eight-year-old son’s pictures were being used without her knowledge.

Gemma says: ‘I always thought I was careful. I posted pictures on Instagram, but I kept my settings private. But then in January, I got a friend request from a modelling promotion page and I accepted. Now I feel I was naive, but at the time I thought it was harmless.

‘Not once did I send them any pictures of my son or give them permission to use his pictures.

‘But within a few days, I started getting over 100 friend requests a day from men I didn’t know. When I clicked on the profile pictures, there were no faces, but images of child pornography.

‘Then I saw pictures of my son on the modelling promotion account. From my feed, and without my permission, they’d taken a picture of him playing on a rope swing and also messing about with some paint, so he’d had to take his shirt off.

‘There were comments like “Handsome Lad” and “Good looking boy”. I felt sick.

‘I messaged the account to ask them to take the pictures down and they ignored me.

‘It really opened my eyes to how easily photos of children can be stolen and misused.’

In another horrifying case, Alexandra Neil, 32, from South-West London, is another mother-of-two who was shocked to discover more than 30 photos of her children stolen from her Instagram account.

‘Two weeks ago, I had a private message from one of my followers saying she’d seen some pictures of my children posted on another page, under another woman’s name, pretending they were hers.’

While they had used the children’s real names, the captions were different and the woman was saying how she looked forward to seeing them.

Alexandra said: ‘The page had been set up a few weeks earlier and already had nearly 400 followers.

‘It was extremely scary, especially as the profile was fake. There was no evidence this woman existed in real life. I told them to stop, but I never heard back and eventually Instagram took the account down last week. It made me stop wanting to put my life and family out there.’

Read more here.

We have previously shared how A UK mum claimed Facebook scammers used pictures of her son’s chickenpox, pretending he has cancer. Read more on that here.

We also shared the story from another mum who was outraged after Facebook trolls stole a picture of her disabled son to use for their own advantage. Read her story here.

There was also the Woman who stole baby photo’s from Instagram and posted them as her own claiming they were sick or dead in a bid to get money. Read here.

Prevention is the key

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert and TODAY contributor, urges parents to use the strictest privacy settings on social media sites to prevent people from stealing photos.

Never include children’s first or last names and other identifying information, such as street address, school or other details that could make it easier for predators to locate children. It is best to turn off location finder when sharing private info.

Leonie Smith, the Cyber Safety Lady, says photo stealing is still a very real threat. She has people contacting her regularly to tell her that they have, by chance, come across their photos being used on other sites. And that’s just the people who have actually found them.

“Stolen photos is a massive operation, and one of the reasons is because of fake accounts,” she says. “So Twitter, Instagram are absolutely loaded with fake accounts and for every fake account they need a fake photo. So where do they get them from? People’s profiles.”

Leonie gives these tips on being safe with your private photos of your children:

  • Ask yourself: why are you sharing your photos in the first place? What are you trying to gain from it? If the answer isn’t about how many ‘likes’ you might get and is more about sharing with your family and friends, then there are other ways you can do it without risking them becoming so public.
  • Create a private group: On Facebook, you can create a private group for selected family and friends where you can share your photos safely. Invite people to be part of the group under the proviso that they are not to share your photos elsewhere.
  • Email the photos directly to people you want to share with.
  • Send hard copies to elderly relatives. Even family and friends who have social media accounts might enjoy receiving some good old-fashioned snail mail from you!
  • Make a point to read and understand the privacy rules on each social media site you are signing up for. Go back and re-read the rules every few months, as things can change without you even knowing.
  • If you do decide to continue posting photos of your child online, go back and delete them every few months. People lose their social media accounts all of the time through hacking, so make sure you don’t store up too many photos.

Do you worry about your images getting stolen online?
Share your comments below.

  • I am very aware of photos I share online possibly bring stolen. Which is why I rarely do it. When I do post to Facebook, I usually delete the pics 24 hours later, they don’t stay up long. I hope this reduces the the risk of them being stolen and used inappropriately

    Reply

  • If you can’t set up secure privacy portals and you are worried about being ‘hacked’ don’t post photos of you children on Facebook.

    Reply

  • Nothing is safe anymore. We need digital accounts and clouds to save all our photos, sad to think people are misusing them

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  • Wow very scary. A lot of creeps out there!

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  • This is a real dilemma that I know many struggle with. My son is now 17 and I share very few photos of him – generally on his birthday. But I always ask his permission to share a photo too. My friend and I were only discussing last week how she provided a photo of her daughter to promote something and it left her feeling uneasy. If you feel uncomfortable don’t do it. Kids born now are born into the social media world, so it’s a huge decision for each parent now to decide what they’re happy to share.

    Reply

  • Horrific indeed !!

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  • This is terrible and a real concern.

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  • I refuse to use social media even though my family want me to just because of all these bad things happening.

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  • Photos on social media are not the only problem. People taking photos that you believe are being taken of other people/items near you can also be an issue. It is scary that not all people are responsible when taking photos. Many cameras have zoom capacity

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  • And this is why I jst don’t post pics. Ever.

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  • Between my friends I have just people I know and I can trust my pictures to be safe with them.

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  • The statistics for this sort of activity are so terrifying … and it only seems to be on the increase!

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  • Scary !! Its sad, but we can’t be careful enough these days

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  • Weirdos are everywhere and the internet is like a playground for them. I always apply the heaviest privacy settings available for all social media accounts and I never share locations or even names. You never know who might be out there.

    Reply

  • There are some scary people out there. Trying to protect our little ones from every possible threat is scary.

    Reply

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