When Jolene Cupples posted a photo of her young daughter on Facebook, she had no idea that it would wind up on a website advertising the child for sale.
She often used the popular social networking site to post photos of her 16-month-old, Emma, to share with family and friends. She kept the profile open to the public to help find families for the pets she fosters.
This meant that anyone could look at her photos, a decision she quickly reversed this week.
I got home on Tuesday night, and I checked my Facebook, and messages, I had like four messages from people and they were like, Oh my god, your daughters on the Prince George buy-sell site, said Cupples.
I was sick, like literally sick, she said. I was freaking out.
She said she then called the Fort St. John RCMP.
Sgt. Steve Perret said the Prince George RCMP began an investigation after receiving a report of some inappropriate photos being posted on an online buy and sell website.
One of the ads was the suspect attempting to sell a child on the site and the suspect had another ad where he was attempting to sell a dead dog, explained Perret. The Fort St. John RCMP became involved once Prince George RCMP determined that the photo of the child used on this ad had originated from a Facebook site of a person residing in Fort St. John.
While waiting for the police, Cupples tried to find the advertisement herself, but couldnt because someone had already reported it to the RCMP and it was taken down.
Now Im in full panic mode. I finally got someone [to take] a picture of it and they sent it to me, she said.
It was an older photo of her daughter with a note that said, One down syndrome girl - free to good home - poss still virginal.
I guess this guy had been on there earlier posting dead animals, explained Cupples.
One of her friends commented on his first photo of a dead animal and called him a sick freak for posting dead animal pictures.
Cerise Lewis is the Prince George And Area Buy, Sell and Trade Facebook sites administrator.
I saw a link on Facebook with the picture, she said. I just clicked on the block and report to Facebook button, so now I cant see anything he posts.
She said its the first time shes ever seen anything like this on the site, but she also has someone else go through and delete any unsavoury comments.
Cupples didnt think this was a personal attack.
She suspects that he subsequently went through the friend list of this commenter, and stumbled upon Cupples.
I dont know why, of all people, he chose to go and get a picture of her because she was the only kid that was up there (on the site) as far as I know, she said.
She said she was so upset that she had a hard time communicating with police.
I had to repeat myself because she couldnt understand me, said Cupples, as 16-month-old Emma sat on her lap.
She said she immediately had a friend change her privacy settings because she currently doesnt have Internet at her house.
The thing that scares me is I dont know where else he couldve posted it, she said. Ive been going to random buy and sell sites throughout B.C. because I dont know.
Perret said once somethings online, its out there for good.
Facebook and other social networking sites are great for people to stay in touch with family and friends, but people should be aware that theres a risk associated with posting anything on the Internet, said Perret. Its important to set your privacy settings so really, the only people that are going to see your personal information and photos is people you know can access that information and post very little information thats available to the general public.
He noted that photo theft is not the scariest thing for people to be aware of.
As twisted and inappropriate as these ads were, there was no permanent harm caused, but the bigger issue with having your personal info out there (is) it makes it very easy for criminals to engage in identity theft, said Perret. The more that people know about you, the easier it is for them to assume your identity, to obtain credit, make purchases online and acquire goods. Your name is used as part of someones criminal enterprise."