How to avoid cyber impersonation of your kids

Recently a huge story broke about a young girl named Katie that had her picture stolen to get Facebook “likes” and make money. What made this story even more notable was the fact that young Katie suffers from Down syndrome. These horrible crooks stole the picture, changed the girl’s name to Mallory and then used a sob story to gain nearly 3.5 million likes from unsuspecting folks looking to make the girl feel good.

Needless to say Katie’s family was infuriated as this latest cyber stealing crime has stooped to new lows. What is particularly scary is that it is remarkably easy for crooks to do this. All it really takes is a picture online to create a similar scam and dupe people based on their heart strings. The crooks put up a story about how “Mallory” was thinking she was not beautiful and that the likes would help her to feel otherwise.

What makes this particularly ridiculous is that Katie is indeed, beautiful. I feel rather certain that she knows this and that she needs no “likes” to discover this about herself.

Cyber impersonation is hardly something new. As long as there have been online profiles there have been criminals looking to take advantage where they can. Katie’s parents are currently trying to decide if they should pursue things further either criminally or simply to bring attention to the crime.

Certainly it would be a good thing to get the word out. Folks are rather flippant about how they share their pictures these days. It is a shame that we can’t past pics without fear of perverts and criminals stealing them and using them for other means. Unfortunately, that is the world we currently live in. To avoid this problem, there are only a handful of things we can do.

We can stop posting pictures of our children in places that are not password protected, but not many of us will do that.  I know that I don’t and yet I still try very hard for proactive and protective measures. Setting your Facebook profile to private can accomplish this and avoiding sites that share pics is another. If you want to share pictures of your kids, do so on a password safe site instead of publicly available sites.  You can also “watermark” pictures placing a symbol over them that makes it harder to lift and copy, and I also recommend not “tagging” pictures using children’s names.  Maybe a parents and then advice parents to “lift the tag”  to help with security and privacy.

Short of these basic considerations, the only other thing we can do is spread the word. The one thing that criminals hate is attention. Like a burglar hiding under a spotlight, we need to bring these criminals into the open. This is the only way we will ever get rid of stories like this one.