PHOENIX, AZ (KTVK) — One Valley couple has a scary warning for parents who post pictures of their children on social media – a scammer is using pictures of their 3-year-old daughter to meet girls online.
The scam is an online phenomenon called “catfishing.” The way it works is someone steals the pictures off another person’s social media profile and posts them as his or her own. The goal is usually to trick someone into an online relationship (many people will recall standout Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and his imaginary dead girlfriend).
But in this particular case, Valley dad Dallas Taylor said the catfisher is using his daughter as bait.
The fake profile says “Sam Ryan.” The person claims he’s the single father of an adorable little girl named Emery. But Sam Ryan doesn’t exist, and Taylor knows that because the pictures on Ryan’s profile are of Taylor and his daughter.
“When my daughter’s mom is calling me saying they can’t sleep at night and they’re worried about being at home, worried for their safety, it’s an issue. It needs to be stopped,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he and his daughter’s mother were both contacted by several people warning them about the stolen pictures showing up on some random guy’s social media profile.
“My daughter’s cheerleading coach received an anonymous email warning the cheer squad about this guy,” Taylor said.
Taylor said it appears the person behind the Sam Ryan profile also goes by several others names, switching his social media alias whenever someone catches on to the scam. It also appears he uses the “single dad” line to meet women online.
“I’ve been approached by over ten different women, people I’ve never met telling me that (Sam Ryan) is trying to impersonate me,” Taylor said.
3TV tracked down a phone number for Sam Ryan, posted on a website women have created to complain about the Sam Ryan scam. However, no one answered when we called it. The voicemail didn’t give a name and simply told callers to leave a message.
Taylor said he has also been unable to get a hold of the person calling himself Sam Ryan.
“He’s actually blocked me personally, so I have no way of seeing anything that he does,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he’s contacted Facebook and Instagram but still hasn’t gotten a response from the social networks, and his family is still hijacked in cyberspace.
“He’s still going strong, still posting pictures, still exploiting my daughter,” Taylor said.
Taylor hopes this will be a powerful reminder to parents to take online security seriously.
By Jason Volentine