GREENSBORO, N.C. – If you are online nothing is private including your photographs. From celebrities to members of the military, your neighbor, you, even members of the FOX8 family have all been victims of people stealing their photographs for scams or profit.
Chad Tucker's story
A viewer first alerted me to an emotional image of me witnessing the birth of my first child. The image was used by BuzzFeed, with my permission, for a 2014 Father's Day article on dads seeing their babies for the first time.
After the article was published someone stole it from BuzzFeed, flipped it around and used it on a "click bait fake article" with a headline claiming I left my wife for a prettier, younger woman. The article is completely false. The story never mentioned my name and while my wife is younger and pretty, the image of the woman included in the fake article is not my wife.
The article was posted and copied on thousands of fake websites, all trying to get you to just click on their page so they can make advertisement money. And it wasn't just in the United States. I was immediately furious, felt insulted and violated and quickly learned I am not alone.
Sgt. Chase Tobin's story
"Literally it's almost a daily occurrence," said Sgt. Chase Tobin, a High Point native serving in the U.S. Marine Corp. He discovered about a year ago, his images were being used daily by scammers to create thousands of dating sites and bogus Facebook accounts.
"My wife and I report well over 50 a month," he said.
The scammers, many Tobin discovered overseas, use his images to lure American women into an online relationship and get them to send money.
"They use my daughter’s picture to try and scam these women," said Tobin. "They say my wife is dead, they say I'm a widow."
Kristen Thomas's story
Kristen Thomas's family pictures were stolen from her blog and landed in a number of advertisements around the world, even a political flyer.
Evan Fasiano's story
Children with disabilities are targets of scammers. Evan Fasciano's discovered images of her son, who has a rare skin disease, were being stolen on Facebook.
Cindy Farmer's story
Cindy Farmer discovered last year her photo of the setting sun was stolen off her Facebook page and being sold for profit by an online poster company.
What can you do?
"Anyone who takes a picture automatically has copyright in that picture ... and generally have control over that picture," says Enrique Armijo, associate professor of law at Elon University School of Law.
While copyright laws help protect your image if it's stolen and used in the United States, Armijo says outside the country is where it gets tough.
"A person in the U.S. is much more likely to respond to a copyright take down request than someone in some foreign country even if you could find information for the person that's using that picture,” Armijo said.
Armijo suggests if you are a victim, report it to the social media site to get it removed but if the use of the image goes beyond copyright laws.
"If they are painting you in a bad light ... you can take even more action in respect toward the law of defamation which says I can be eligible for damages if someone has harmed my reputation saying something false about me,” he said.
Privacy settings won’t help
Locking down your social media account or turning your privacy settings to close friends and family won't help when it comes to privacy.
"When you put something out to the world, even to one other person, the law says that you have to assume they are going to give that thing you thought was private to somebody else," said Armijo. "So there really no such thing as privacy on Facebook."