Late last week I was sitting in line to pick up my kids when I noticed my phone alerts for instagram were coming fast and furious – a little odd since I hadn’t posted a photo in a while. When I got home, I checked instagram and noticed I had been tagged by a number of fan pages for Mia Talerico . . . the little actress who plays Charlie in the popular Disney Channel sitcom. Apparently, several of them had made the discovery that an instagram user posing as Claire Talerico, Mia ’s mom, was pilfering my instagram photos and passing them off as Claire and my daughter as Mia.
Indeed, this account was claiming to be Claire Talerico, and it featured a number of photos from my feed. It seems whoever was behind it was following Claire’s movements in real life, and then picking and cropping photos from my feed to make it appear as if they were real-life candid shots from Mia’s life. She would change the caption to imply that the photos were of little Mia. She even had a photo of India and I as her profile shot.
Here are a few shots of her photos, side-by-side with the original photos from my own feed.
My photos comprised about 75% of her feed, with the other 25% containing press photos of Mia Talerico that she likely lifted from Google images. In the photo below, every single picture is one of mine. With over 7000 followers, she was obviously fooling quite a few fans of the Disney Channel show.
I really have no idea how she found me, but I’m guessing it may have been when I posted a picture of India posing with Bridget Medler, who plays Mia’s older sister on the show. I suppose India does vaguely resemble Mia Talerico in this photo. Perhaps that sparked the idea.
I did a bit more digging and discovered that there was yet another Instagram account posting my photos. It was another “fan page” for Mia Talerico . . . this one supposedly being run by Mia’s cousin. Again, someone was posing as a family member and passing off our photos as candids. Several of the photos were watermarked, which is a bit hilarious given that they are stolen photos. The watermark led me to discover the facebook pages.
There were two facebook pages using my photos as well. Again, one claiming to be Claire (the little girl’s mom) and another claiming to be her cousin. The similar style of both of the accounts, and the fact that both seemed to be mining my instagram account, led me to believe that it was the same person running both accounts.
So, to recap:
There are two instagram accounts using my photos: one pretending it’s the account of Claire Talerico (Mia’s mom) and one that was a fan page written by Mia’s cousin. Both have corresponding facebook pages also using my pictures, and I suspect both are being run by the same person.
Based on the language, I assumed it was someone relatively young. After a little sleuthing, I figured out who it was. I was correct – it was a 13-year-old girl. I confronted her in the comments about the use of my pictures. Yet instead of backing down, she amped the charade up a notch. First, on the “fan page” of fake cousin, she posted this supposed cell phone interchange between herself and Claire Talerico:
I have to admit, this obvious script made me laugh a bit, as I imagined this girl exchanged texts with her own email account (or however she did it) and then taking screenshots assuming this would resolve the whole thing and throw me off her scent. Also, if I was the Real Claire Talerico, I would be offended by the poor grammar as much as anything.
Then she doubled down and took to the fake instagram account of Claire to announce that, yes, she was really Mia’s mom, but her account had been HACKED!
Apparently hacked for 5 weeks or so. I love the fake apology here in regards to her own behavior. This definitely sounds like a 30-something mother.
I continued to press her on the lie, and suddenly she changed the instagram account to a “celebrity finder” account. She deleted all the photos and then uploaded pictures of random celebrities. When people started calling her out there, she change the account name AGAIN, and then claimed she was a sketch artists and started posting pictures of celebrity artists that she had put through an app that made it look like a drawing. She then passed these off as her own drawings. A fact that her 7000 followers started to question. She changed the account again, and to be honest I lost track. I have no idea what her username is now or what she is posting.
Meanwhile, my own instagram account has been hijacked by preteens who have previously followed this account, some supporting me (OMG I can’t believe she did this to you poor innocent lady!) and others angry at me for “making Claire Talerico leave instagram”. A photo I took of the kids at guitar lessons had over 100 comments from little tween girls, some as young as 9 years old, trying to engage me in drama about this whole thing.
I will be honestl, I really didn’t get that wrankled about having my photos stolen. It was annoying but in truth it didn’t hurt me pesronally in any way. I am public online and it’s a risk I assume in doing so. The part that bothers me most, though, is that there is a little 13-year-old who is impersonating an adult, lying, stealing photos, lying, getting caught, and then lying some more. It’s so disturbing. Despite me repeatedly calling her out, she is STILL impersonating Claire Talerico on facebook.
Today I let her know that I had her full name, the name of her school, and the name of her town (things I easily found by browsing her instagram photos) and that she had 24 hours to supply me with her parent's’ phone numbers or I would call her in for identity theft of Claire Talerico. Honestly, had she come clean and apologized, or deleted the accounts, I would have let it go. But her persistence has made me feel like a phone call with her parents is in order. I would be mortified if my daughter was behaving this way and continuing to lie to adults even after being caught. And honestly, if she continues in this vein of deception, I would hate to see where this leads. So I’m doing my best to coax her into providing me with her parents’ info. Not because I want to get even, but because I see a troubled girl making bad decisions online, and my mothering red flags are going off.
Anyways, the moral of the story is: we .need to monitor what our children are doing online. Getting embroiled in this little drama between tween-girl fan sites has opened my eyes. I’ve seen accounts posting pictures of cutitng, I’ve seen pro-anorexia photos, and I’ve seen tons of girls running multiple accounts and sharing intimate details online. Most of them were using location services, even checking in at home and at school. Almost all of them had personal accounts that were not private. But the thing is . . . with instagram, any child can have a profile that their parents monitor and then log out and create one that they don’t tell their parents about. I suspect that was the case with a lot of the accounts I was seeing. Honestly, previous to this experience I didn’t see the harm in younger kids having private instagram accounts. This changed my mind.
What do you guys think? Should kids be on instagram? Are yours? Do you have any controls put in place to monitor their behavior? Instagram allows kids who are over 13 . . . but is this even mature enough? After this experience, my gut says no.