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Family ‘digitally kidnapped’ by imposter posing as mom online

A fake profile had cloned her photos and was using them on an account with different captions.

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The Steele family was digitally kidnapped by an imposter pretending to be the mom, Meredith Steele.

By Lydia Patrick via SWNS

A mom has stopped posting photos of her kids online after her family was "digitally kidnapped" by an imposter who was posing as her.

Meredith Steele, 35, of Portland, Maine, blogged on Instagram about her life with her husband, Mark Steele, 35, and kids - a daughter aged 11, and a son, 9.

She posted typical photos of their daily life and soon had 5,000 followers.

But she was horrified when she discovered a fake profile had cloned her photos and was using them on an account with thousands of families.

Meredith was shocked to see photos of special family moments she'd shared on her own Instagram had been reposted - with different names and captions - by a stranger.

Every photo the mom posted of the family was used on the other account and they were used to illustrate fake family outings to lunch or school runs to thousands.

Meredith immediately reported the account to Instagram but says they didn't remove it - so she blocked it so they could no longer have access. She then deleted all traces of her children on social media.

Meredith says it made her think about "mommy blog culture" and oversharing online.

She's still got active social media accounts with 918.2k followers on her TikTok but refuses to post her kids or let them on social media.

Meredith, a content creator, said: "It was absolutely horrifying.

“The kids had new names and new identities.

“It was so upsetting. I freaked out and removed everything.

“I felt like such a bad parent.

"They made their own captions and made their own lives.

"It was like they were playing with Barbie dolls but the dolls were my kids."

Meredith was unaware of the imposter account - which had thousands of followers - until a friend found it.

The mom was out to dinner to celebrate her child’s preschool graduation and posted a family photo and tagged the restaurant as the location in June 2021.

She was friendly with the staff, having worked there years before, and a waitress who was browsing through photos tagged to the restaurant spotted the same image of Meredith twice.

Minutes after the real Meredith had posted the photo, the fake one copied it, wrote their own caption about going out for dinner and posted it tagging the same location.

The waitress showed it to Meredith who uncovered an entire account - with more than 30 photos of her family.

Meredith says the incident made her think about "mommy blog culture." (Meredith Steele / SWNS)

Meredith revealed she was a victim of 'digital kidnapping' - a phenomenon whereby people steal your online content and create their own pages with it.

She added: "These people have an emotional investment in my family and on a lot of these apps it's hard to take down fake accounts.

"I don't know who it was, it was a real violation.

"I would share pictures of hikes and family dinners, it wasn't anything I felt was invasive.

"I want to protect other people from feeling like that.

"These little kids can't consent to be on that level of exposure."

Suspects will steal the identities of their victims and live out a fake life online, in a concept known as 'role-playing.'

She said: "This changed my mind about sharing my stuff online.

"Mommy blog culture normalizes oversharing intimate personal details of your kids and they aren't old enough to agree or disagree with it.

"My kids and their lives are not content - they aren't allowed social media."

Now, Meredith will only share the back of her children's heads online and will never tag her live location- only sharing where she was at least a few hours after she left.

She no longer grants permission for school, summer camps and any extra-curricular activities to take photographs of her children.

"I'm an adult on social media and I get my feelings hurt every day, people are awful online.

"You will never see my kids' faces on my social media again and it's helped me have healthier boundaries."

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