A recent online scam has become a cautionary tale for parents who publicly post photos of their kids on social media. On Tuesday, Kati Ringer was banned from social media use for two years after she stole baby photos from Instagram accounts and reposted them online, claiming the babies were her sick or dead children to get people to donate money.
The 21-year-old woman in Norwich, England, targeted two moms at random. According to the prosecutor, Jane Walker, Ringer pretended that one baby died and said that the second, a premature infant, was seriously ill and that she was struggling to pay for her treatment and funeral.
To make matters even more disgusting, when challenged by the victims online, Ringer responded with threats and zero empathy.
The woman threatened to rape and harm the first mom's child. She even sent a "laughing face" emoji on Instagram with the message, "I've already posted pictures saying she's dead, I've got £600 so far." In her responses, Ringer also called the baby a "disgusting little runt that should have been drowned at birth."
When the second mom asked Ringer to stop using the images, she again said she would find out where the victim lived and kidnap and rape her daughter.
To catch Ringer, police traced the IP address to a computer at her mother's house. On top of being banned from using any social media accounts in the two-year criminal behavior order, Ringer also cannot pass any other person's photo off as her own or ask a third party for a donation, unless she's a legitimate volunteer for a registered charity. She was handed a suspended jail term of 30 weeks, ordered to pay £225 in costs and sentenced to a community order with a 30-day activity requirement.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first case of someone stealing baby photos nor is it the first scam using children to get people to open up their wallets. In 2014, a new community of baby role-players popped up on Instagram (think of it as a creepy, digital version of playing house). Anonymous people would steal images of babies and children and claim them as their own. They would give these babies a new name and even entire fake families. And just a few months ago, a mom was accused of faking her toddler's cancer after raising $40K on GoFundMe, which is especially heartbreaking because there are families who actually need these resources.
Whether you refuse to post photos of your kids online, or you think a photo of your baby girl trying to crawl really isn't a big deal, we can all agree no mom or child deserves to be taken advantage of and put in such an upsetting position.