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Friday, February 20, 2015

Digitally kidnapped

On Thursday evening after we had finished dinner, Wade headed upstairs with the kids to play so I could have some peace and quiet. I sat down on the couch, opened my lap top, and began doing the usual mindless internet surfing that I usually do. In the midst of my facebook perusing, I noticed I had an email from someone I didn't know - I could tell it wasn't spam, so I opened it and began reading... then my heart sunk.

It was a woman who said she had found my blog in an unusual way. She then explained that she and her husband were currently pursuing private adoption here in the United States, and in the process of reaching out to potential birth moms, she came across someone's "story" and photos that just didn't seem right. The person had responded to a craigslist posting of theirs and claimed to have a 10-month-old son who she was no longer fit to care for various reasons, and then she attached pictures of her son to the email. Acting on the advice of an adoption scam group, the woman who reached out to me decided to do a reverse google image search (yes, it's a real thing, I tried it myself) of the photos, and that led her to my blog. The pictures this individual sent her were pictures of MY son when he was 10 months old. Pictures taken from MY blog.

The individual went so far as to give the photos new file names with Davis's name. For example, if one of the images I uploaded was titled "DSC_1234," this person changed the file name to something like "Davis 7.") This means they were not just stealing photos from my blog, but also stealing information from the blog and passing it off as their own - all in an attempt to pull at the heartstrings of hopeful adoptive parents in order to scam money out of them. And from the sound of the person's email, as well as the way they saved and numbered the photos, it doesn't seem like this was their first attempt to do this.

My head was spinning when I read the email. What needed to be done?, I wondered. Could anything be done? I have heard about this kind of thing happening, and I have also heard that there is very little you can do to stop it. Honestly, I knew that by having a public blog and sharing photos of my children, I was at risk of this sort of thing. While it really makes me feel ill to know that pictures of MY child are being used in this awful, deceitful way, I feel worse for the people who might be falling for this scam and giving them their money. It just makes me angry in a thousand different ways.

It also makes me feel so helpless. I ended up reporting the incident as an internet crime complaint to the FBI online last night, but I am getting the impression from many that mine is just one in a very large pile of complaints and nothing may ever come of it. All I have to go off of is an email address with a presumably fake name for a person in another country. While I am incredibly grateful that I have no reason to feel my child is actually in danger, I hate that I can't just erase all traces of these photos from the internet and remove them from the hands of the horrible person who has them. I feel like I let my child down in a way, and that's an incredibly awful feeling.

I still don't really know what to do from here. I have reverted the large majority of my old blog posts to drafts for the time being, and I plan to watermark photos on the blog going forward, but it just doesn't feel like enough at the moment. I just want to do SOMETHING to right this wrong. Do I make the blog private? Do I stop blogging altogether? Do I just think a lot harder about what I'm going to share from now on and hope for the best? I don't want to live in fear, but I also don't want to do anything that will make me feel this violated ever again...

Anyway, forgive the unedited stream of consciousness, but I just feel so uncomfortable at the moment and I needed to get it out there. And on the off chance the piece of trash terrible human being waste of space individual might be reading this post, since they seem so familiar with my blog, perhaps they will get the message that what they are doing is so, so wrong on so many levels. Doubtful, but worth a shot. 

12 comments:

Natasha said...

Allison -- oh my gosh. This is awful. Like you, I am angry both at the person who stole your photos but also at the way in which they are being used. It is just so wrong.

I will be praying for you as you determine where to go from here as I don't know what else to do.

Brittany Sciba said...

I hate this. Everything you said makes sense and like you, I kind of don't know what do to from here in terms of blogging. :/ I hate that this happened to you and to the person who was scammed!! :(

Brittnie said...

I have seriously been thinking about you and this situation all morning. It makes me sick to my stomach. I'm so sorry. Truly is making me rethink how I blog as well. Ugh!

hollie marie said...

This absolutely disgusts me. And at the same time scares me to death. I would love to know what the solution to this problem is so I can implement it on my own kid-picture-filled blog. So sorry you're having to face this.

Erika said...

This SUCKS!!! I hate it. But one thing that crossed my mind is that if you remove the pictures from your blog/take down the blog/make it private...then the next person they try to scam, if THEY do a reverse image search...nothing will come up, right? So it may make the scammer look more legitimate...whereas if you leave them up, then maybe the next potential adoptive parent will find you/the truth just like the last one did, before much harm could be done? Just a thought. But I agree with the watermarking going forward being the best option...I should probably do that, too. It just seems like so much WORK. Wah. But seriously, this sucks and is really scary- I'm sorry!!

Aubrey said...

Omg this makes me want to delete my blog! This is horrible! :(

The Joiners said...

Always scary and eye-opening when "this kind of thing could never happen to me" stuff happens to you! Obviously there are lots of us hoping to learn from your situation... which means it's already safe to say that good will come of this!!

Allena said...

I saw when you said this on FB last night and it made me sick/sad. I also have 2 questions - how do you do a reverse google search and how do you add a watermark? I'm debating doing the watermark thing...I was always lazy in the past, and the thought of redoing every picture from the past...overwhelming! I don't want to make my blog private either because I love making connections with moms that I would never otherwise know, but it is for sure scary. Nothing may come of your complaint, but at least it's out there!

sschnitzler said...

Your story raises awareness other bloggers (and any social media user) how vulnerable our children's pictures could be. I'm very sorry this happened to your sweet blog.

Anonymous said...

This makes me so sick and makes my heart hurt for both your family and any families looking to adopt who could be scammed this way.

ChelseaSalomone said...

I am just sick over this. It is so scary and so eye opening and I absolutely hate it for your family. I am so sorry!

Abby said...

I've been sick thinking about this for you. I think I remember hearing that you can disable the right click function for your blog, which would probably help cut down on some picture stealing. Someone who was really intent on getting them still probably could, but it would at least deter most.

Would you update us on the steps you take so that other mommas can also think about doing the same? Thanks. Sorry again you're dealing with this.