Healthy 5-Year-Old Being Used in Cancer Scam & His Mom Had No Idea

Say What!? 5

taking photo Imagine logging online one day to find pictures of your child being used in an elaborate hoax by someone claiming your son is their child who died from cancer. Welcome to 2013. The "Remembering Reilly" hoax that entangled Tennessee mom blogger and photographer Sarah Gilliam and stolen photos of her (very healthy) 5-year-old son, Jack, is now just part of being a parent in a digital world.

Gilliam's story is scary and infuriating. Her personal work was stolen, and her child used in a scam.

But he wasn't physically hurt. No one actually touched Jack himself. He didn't even know what was going on ... which only makes the new trend of Internet thievery that much more frustrating for parents.

The perpetrator of the Remembering Reilly scam turned out to be a teenager who told Gilliam she just thought she'd "make a difference" in the childhood cancer world. 

That she would be hurting another family by stealing their photos didn't seem to register.

As the number of stolen photo issues crop up -- and as a photographer who tends to follow these kinds of issues, I seem to read about them at least monthly these days -- I've noticed this pervasive "no one will get hurt" attitude.

Nine times out of 10, the child in the photos IS completely unaffected. They don't know their image is being used. They aren't hurt in any physical way.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they can't be.

Today's kids are online. The chances they will run into a stolen photo of themselves is almost as high as their mom or dad doing the same.

What's more, the hurt of a child isn't the only thing to consider here. The emotions of a parent are just as valid.

A photo of me with my daughter was stolen a few years ago, and the best word to describe my emotions at the time: violated.

I felt like someone HAD physically walked into my house and hurt my daughter. Her image was being used on a site that was defaming her mother. It was not something I would have allowed, and the thought of her one day finding that made me physically ill.

I fought tooth and nail to have the photo removed, and eventually it was replaced by another picture of just me. Although the latter was also stolen, just having my child removed made me feel much better. As an adult who writes online, I could handle the insult ... but I didn't feel my child should have to.

No child should have to have their image used in ways their parents don't intend.

But this is parenting in 2013.

No matter how hard parents work to lock down their lives, no matter how many times you watermark an image, the minute you put a photo of your child on the Internet, you run the risk of some jerk with a shady sense of ethics stealing it to do God knows what.

Keeping the photos offline may be an option, and it could slow them down, but it's just as easy for someone with a camera to stop by your local park, take some shots of kids on the playground, and use those. There really IS no way to keep our kids' images safe short of locking them in the house until college.

But that doesn't mean it's a victimless crime.

Have your photos ever been stolen and used elsewhere online? How did it feel?


Image via BigTallGuy/Flickr

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nonmember avatar blue

I don't post photos of my child online, for this reason. The thought of someone stealing them and doing god knows what...I just can't stand that. It doesn't matter is the child doesn't know. If some pervert, scam artist, or crazy person uses their picture...they are STILL violated, whether they know or now. I truly cna't understand parents who post tons of pictures of their kids. Stealing photos is incredibly common and easy, even with protection features.

zaksm... zaksmommy12

I've had pictures of my son stolen from people on his father's side because they are not allowed to see him. They said some horrible things about me with them, but as soon as they were found I was able to get them taken down.

Roxygurl Roxygurl

I don't post pictures of my children online because there are some pretty screwed up people online. I've been accused of lying about having children (on here) I've been accused of being too paranoid but stories like this is why I won't ever post pictures of my loved ones online.

chech... chechimansmama

When i was about 8 i had take professional pictures for my first communion. And about 2 yrs later my moms best friend who lived about 20 miles away called to tell my mom that there was a photography business advertising inside a supermarket and my picture was there. My mom couldnt believe it. So we went to that store and sure enough they were using my picture. Apparently the other place had sold them my pic! My mom totally went berserk on em threatened a lawsuit an lo and behold they took em down. Apparently my pic was used all over SoCal

kymom23 kymom23

I have a friend who's daughter's pictures were stolen off of her Myspace account. The people who took the photos where trying to use them to "adopt" the child out!!!! How in the world they thought that was happening, is beyond me. Maybe they thought someone would privately "pay" for the child, then poof, they'd be gone with the money.

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