My family were digitally kidnapped by thief who stole identities off Instagram

A horrified mum says her kids were “digitally kidnapped” by a sicko who stole her family photos that she had posted online to start a fake profile on Instagram.

Meredith Steele, 35, blogged on the social media site and regularly posted snaps of her 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son – but was shocked to find a stranger had nicked her pictures to create a cloned profile with different names and captions.

Every photo the mum posted of the family was used on the other account and illustrated fake family outings to lunch or school runs to thousands.

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The content creator, from Portland in the US, fumed: "It was absolutely horrifying. The kids had new names and new identities.

"It was so upsetting. I freaked out and removed everything. I felt like such a bad parent. They made their own captions and made their own lives.

"It was like they were playing with Barbie dolls but the dolls were my kids."

Gutted Meredith had no idea about the imposter account – which had thousands of followers – until a waitress found it.

The restaurant worker had been flicking through photos that her establishment had been tagged in on Instagram, when she noticed the same photo had been posted twice with different captions.

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Minutes after the real Meredith had posted the photo, the fake one copied it, wrote their own caption about going out for dinner and posted it tagging the same location.

The waitress showed it to Meredith who uncovered an entire account with more than 30 photos of her family.

"These people have emotional investment in my family," the mum added.

"This changed my mind about sharing my stuff online. My kids and their lives are not content – they aren't allowed social media."

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