Monday, 30 March 2015
Warning alert! Scary world of the 'fake profile'!
So I'm in this wonderful Facebook group of amazing mums. Originally a group from one of those baby forums. Some of the mums migrated off to create a Facebook group after we found some mothers on the forum hid behind anonymous usernames and seemed to get off on judging others. It started with a few dozen and grew to a couple of hundred like-minded mummies.
I joined this group when I was about 10 weeks pregnant. It has been with me through pregnancy and into new motherhood. Full of some really wonderful women from all walks of life, ages, races, first time mums, those with several older children. I love getting all the different perspectives and having a non-judgmental sounding board. They have supported me through sleepless nights to introducing solids. Celebrated milestones and commiserating the rough days.
However, a few days ago our group discovered we had been infiltrated!!!
It appeared there were several 'mothers' who were not who they seemed! At least 5-6 active members on the group turned out to be one (maybe two) crazy woman who had nothing better to do than spend their day managing multiple Facebook profiles to join an online mothers group. We had shared photos and personal detailed with these women(woman). Scarier still they had scared a plethora of photos of their babies with us. Who's babies were they? The poor mothers who's babies photos were used to propagate fake profiles! These profiles aren't always overtly fake, it took us a good 6 months to work out something wasn't right. The seemed like real people with real normal baby issues. They weren't nasty fakes, they didn't troll the group but they did have all sorts of dramas that at times consumed the groups attention.
It seems fake profiles aren't just limited to criminals and pedophiles, there are crazy people out their stealing our profiles, our photos and claiming our babies as their own!
Here are just some of her personalities:
1. Mother of 6 month old triplets with another on the way. 23 year old mother of naturally conceived triplets and another due in December.We followed this woman's journey as a mother of triplets, marveling at how she did it! 'Super mum' we called her as she baked Valentines cookies for her husband. Feeling dreadful for her as she leaves her local mothers group struggling to keep up with her three babies. Mourning the loss of one her twin fetuses while celebrating her new pregnancy. Complete with multiple pictures and elaborate stories of life with three babies.
2. Mother of a 6 month girl and older boy. A circus performer (not sure why that didn't tip us off, but they are real people too), she traveled with her partner and children around the country with a travelling circus. She was the one in the end that made us guess something wasn't right. We followed her difficulties making friends as she wasn't in the same place for long. She organised meet ups with other member and pulling out at the last minute. She was a really active member of the group. We relied on her for information on another (probably fake) mum who had suffered a horrible personal tragedy.We got suss when she introduced a new member using the same name as another fake profile.
3. Mother of a 6 month old boy and an toddler with down syndrome. She came and went from the group. We felt angry and disappointed and she told us of the discrimination her down syndrome daughter faced. Then her new son suffered seizures and she went offline while she was 'at the hospital' unsure of what was happening. We sought updates, hoping we could help in some way. Her profile seemed to appear and disappear, not that this should be a red flag, I know plenty of people who leave Facebook only to return weeks later. The tip off here was when the circus mum introduced a new member, her 'friend', a few months later by the same name with similar profile.
4. The Teen mother with a 6 month old baby and rocky relationship. A 17 year old girl with a 6 month old baby girl. She was disowned by her family when she fell pregnant and moved in with her boyfriend who later proposed only to be caught cheating a few weeks later. She was then out on the streets. The group banded together to try and get some support to the 'poor girl' in the form of gift vouchers she could spend on what she needed (I told you, its a really supportive group!). She was originally introduced as the cousin on the mother of triplets only to be later mentioned as only being an 'acquaintance'.
5. Mother of 6 month old boy and toddler girl. Appeared with the same name as the mother of the girl with down syndrome. She was the newest of the fake profiles from what I could tell. Vouched for by the circus mum she was my first tip off that something was a little off, we quickly uncovered the network of fakes.
Like I said, for months and months we chatted with these women, shared photos of our babies, took their advice and gave advice of our own. We had been sucked into their dramas, pitied them, felt excited for them, identified with them. Needless to say many of us where shocked when it all came out that there were some fakes among us! Our wonderful admins then went on a cleansing blitz. But how do you feel truly safe after you've been violated? Those of us who shared photos and details of our baby's lives thinking it was safe to do so in our closed group. Suddenly we felt scared that our babies photos had been stolen by this crazy woman and used for her own twisted reasons.
This isn't the first time this had happened. In my local mothers Facebook group, there had been concerns raised on several occasions of a woman going around with photos of babies she claimed as her own. She didn't just do this on Facebook, but approached people in real lives using baby photos of local mother's children claiming they were hers.
So the questions, should we all stop sharing pictures of our babies? or should be just be selective on what information we give out? Should we stop using online communities all together? what were the real purposes of these women? why would someone what to join a mothers group and interact in such a way? what do they achieve? I have enough trouble managing my own profile let alone multiple fake ones.
Please mums and dads, keep an eye out for strange interactions online, people aren't always who they appear!
Agent Mystery Case