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Facebook Fraud: Baby photos hijacked on Facebook
WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (Angenette Levy) -- For Rick and Natalie Ross, the birth of their nearly three-week-old daughter, Emmaline, was a blessing.
Doting mom Natalie had posted photos of Emmaline on her Facebook page. Little did she know a Facebook "friend" was stealing the photos and passing the photos of Emmaline off as her own daughter.
"It just sent chills up my arms. I couldn't believe that someone would steal something that was so special to me and play it as their own," said Natalie Ross as she cradled Emmaline in her arms.
Natalie said a woman named Meagan Williams who lives in southern Kentucky stole the photos of Emmaline. She said Williams set up a fake account under the name Maryann McGregor. McGregor posted photos about her new daughter, Embry. She had a fake husband named Brad, who also commented on the photos. The Rosses believe Williams set up and managed Brad's account and created a virtual, fake family.
"The initial thought that went through my mind was this isn't right," Rick Ross said.
The Rosses said they found out about the Facebook fraud last week when their family photographer called them. A woman who had gone to college with Meagan Williams became suspicious when she saw the baby photos on Facebook. The woman put the photos in a Google image search and traced them to the photographer. She said she'd been trying to figure out who the photos belonged to for several months. Rick and Natalie said Williams used their birth announcement for Emmaline on her page along with photos of Rick painting the nursery of their first daughter, Madeline. She died shortly after birth of S.I.D.S. in 2011.
Natalie had started a blog about Madeline's death to cope with the loss. Williams had added Natalie as a friend on Facebook after reading her blog. She'd offered Natalie support through messages.
"I just felt like I had a kindred spirit with her just over loss in general. She was missing her mother, I was missing my daughter," Natalie said. She added, "I think that was the part that hurts the most. She used my daughter to get into my life and then she's stealing the identity of this other little girl that we prayed so hard for."
The Rosses said they've talked to people who know Meagan Williams and they've been told she has a criminal record. She was arrested for theft and passing cold checks last year. Last month, she was jailed in Kentucky on a charge of failing to appear for court. Rick Ross said he's concerned because he found out Williams works for a credit bureau. He fears she could have access to anyone's personal information. But most importantly, the fraud made him worry for his family's safety.
Rick Ross contacted police but he said he was told Williams had not committed a crime.
"At what point in time do I have to fear you know that while I'm at work my wife is ok. And that are child is ok?"
The Rosses hope that other parents can learn from their frightening online experience.
"Just because they have one mutual friend doesn't mean they have the right motives. Be very careful of who you accept because you never know what they could do or what they are capable of doing," Rick Ross said.
The Rosses contacted Meagan Williams Tuesday and told her to take down the photos. She responded to their message and told them she had not posted the photos. She claimed to have been hacked. But, the photos, along with her Facebook accounts disappeared shortly thereafter.
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