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Woman describes 'sheer horror' after online impostor takes photos

Posted February 2, 2012

— As a former model and daughter of a photographer, Lydia Lange has been the subject of thousands of pictures. She posted many of them on her personal Facebook page and fashion blog. Little did she know, someone was copying her photos and posting them online under the name “Jenny.”

The 25-year-old says she first heard about this mysterious Jenny in September after one of her fans, who has been following her career, alerted her to the website.

“At first, I didn’t think it was that serious,” Lange said.

Later that night, she and her husband looked at the website and realized 90 percent of the pictures were taken from her Facebook profile.

“(I realized) it had to be someone that knew me really well,” Lange said, describing her “sheer horror” upon seeing the website. “I just knew it had to be someone close to me.”

When Lange and her family began digging, they realized the person using the name Jenny had been stealing her pictures for more than a year, often copying and reposting them within minutes on at least 10 different social media sites since July 2010. Jenny even had a boyfriend and her own fans.

“I felt completely violated. I felt like, ‘OK, maybe I shouldn’t have myself on the Internet,'" Lange said. The fashion blogger and stay-at-home wife says she dropped 10 pounds in two weeks, felt sick to her stomach all the time, had trouble sleeping and worried about her safety.

“It’s just a very scary feeling … just the fear of the unknown,” she said. “If they’re that obsessed and I find out, are they going to come after me?”

Lydia Lange Woman describes 'sheer horror' after imposter takes photos

Lange immediately took down her fashion blog, and she and her family became consumed with trying to figure out who was behind Jenny.

“It’s the last thing I think about when I go to sleep,” said Lange’s 27-year-old sister, Rebekah Larraz. “I dream about it all night, and it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up. It’s consuming.”

After investigating on their own, Lange and Larraz said they realized most of the images taken were only accessible by family and friends. The sisters eventually confronted the person they believe to be Jenny.

“I was very calm, and I didn’t accuse her,” Lange said. “I just asked Rebekah, ‘Can you show her what someone has done?’” The woman then put up her hands, said “That’s sick,” and tried to close the computer, according to the sisters.

“(It seemed) like we were showing her a dead body,” Lange said.

Even though the woman denied it, Lange said she noticed some changes to Jenny’s website within 24 hours. Later, a goodbye message was posted, saying “Jenny is no more.”

“I think it should be illegal to do something to somebody like this, to be able to sit behind a computer screen and harass someone and make them feel scared for their life,” Lange said. “It’s just really a terrifying thing to go through and get no help.”

Lange and her family said they contacted two law enforcement agencies, including the Wake County Sheriff's Office, and were told they had no case.

WRAL News asked Rusty Gilmore, a security consultant and computer forensic expert with Risk Management Associates in Raleigh, to look at Lange’s case. He says, with the way the law stands now, taking someone else's images and posting them elsewhere online does not equate to identity fraud.

Civil remedies might be possible, according to Gilmore, but re-posting someone else's online photos does not usually rise to the level of a criminal violation. It would be difficult to pursue legal action since the person had no intent to steal money and only used Lange’s photos to create a new persona.

“It’s not like somebody breaking in your door and stealing or looking through your items criminally, but emotionally, I think it might have the same impact,” he said.

State and federal laws have been struggling to keep up with changing technology. Gilmore says cases like Lange’s are “more common than we’re aware of,” especially for people who are well-known or have a public profile.

“If this happens all the time, why isn’t there something in place for this?” Larraz said. “This shouldn’t be allowed.”

Larraz says she doesn’t think there was anything her sister could have done to prevent her pictures from being used without her permission. “It was somebody that was in our circle, in our friends that would have seen all this anyway,” Larraz said. “It was not like we let some stranger on and they stole all this stuff.”

Gilmore suggests limiting the number of people who can see pictures and information posted on Facebook or other social media sites. If a picture is copied, Gilmore suggests contacting the website and asking its support or security department for help.

“Sometimes they'll just take it down if you show enough proof that that is not you or that is not your name or that you have another account that they've already authorized you to use,” he said. “Sometimes they won't, though. It just depends on the content, whether or not they're using your name.”

Gilmore acknowledges it can be difficult to go through those hurdles, especially when dealing with a large company, such as Facebook. For people like Lange, Gilmore advises them to “just be vigilant” and “just be aware of what you put out there.”

“Try to put as little information about yourself on the Internet when you can when it comes to family life, and if you do put it out there, restrict it to your family,” he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • mr54923 Feb 10, 2012

    I would think the term, "sheer horror" is completely appropriate in this case. To know someone is stalking you would be terrifying. To figure out that this person must be close would be almost too frightening to imagine. How betrayed she must have felt. Obviously those who are criticizing her on this forum are the same totally computer savvy folks that did this to her in the first place.

  • marks7796 Feb 3, 2012

    Catch the poster:
    1. Post a few pictures.
    2. Each picture will have a set permission and can only be viewed by two or three *close* family members.
    3. watch the copycat and see which of the controlled pictures come up.
    4. Repeat steps one and two until you catch that creepy copycat.

  • Observed Feb 3, 2012

    I think a key point that's mostly being overlooked in these comments is the fact that this was her private facebook that was being copied, and that the blogger/poser was "someone that knew me really well." I, personally, would be really weirded out if a close friend or an acquaintance of mine had created an online presence based on me and pretended to be me for years. It's quite panty sniffer-esque. Is it illegal? Apparently a gray area. Is it creepy? Very yes.

  • itsmyownopinion Feb 3, 2012

    "...this woman's apparently total lack of any sense of proportion as regards the effect this theft had upon her. Gimme a break! "Sheer horror?" Really?"


    It's all about perspective -- for this woman it's sheer horror, and, with your moniker as proof, everything ticks you off and this story is just another one of those. She was the one who was violated, and most of the posters here continue to post vile remarks about her. Shame on the lot of you.

  • iheartpups Feb 3, 2012

    Hey NCSUer, some of us already dedicate our time to serving others and work to make a difference in people's lives. As dreamy as being a 'stay at home' wife sounds, I'd rather be in the trenches getting my hands dirty, working with the 'dregs' of society, and finding beauty in people that society has written off. You stated that everyone here is 'wasting time bickering on this forum'. If Mrs. Lange didn't bring this situation to the attention of WRAL and the entire viewing area, this forum wouldn't exist.

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Feb 3, 2012

    me2you, most of the outrage here is not about the theft of the photos, which is indeed not a good thing, but rather at this woman's apparently total lack of any sense of proportion as regards the effect this theft had upon her. Gimme a break! "Sheer horror?" Really?

  • NCSUer Feb 3, 2012

    "with all the time she'll be saving ... online, she can volunteer in the community and make a positive difference in other people's lives."

    That's a good point for all of us wasting our time bickering on this forum.

  • me2you Feb 3, 2012

    No one has a right to another person's photos or property without their permission, online or not. According to some of you if I put photos on my desk, or out in my living room, a co-worker, family member or friend has a right to take and do whatever they want with them. I say registering a place online under your name is yours and no one has a right to take what's yours. But typical negative Goloers wouldn't know anything about that. All of you self-righteous, condenscending people don't have the ability to empathize with anyone. But if it were you, you'd be crying like a baby and expect the world to do the same, because it's all about YOU.

  • iheartpups Feb 3, 2012

    sheer horror is finding out a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. sheer horror is discovering that you've lost your job. sheer horror is witnessing your fellow soldier die right beside you. sheer horror is being a 10 year old child who has been sold as a sex slave. sheer horror is being an unborn baby and finding out that the Susan Komen foundation doesn't have a backbone. if this is the worst thing that has happened to this woman, she is very blessed. with all the time she'll be saving by not posting pictures of herself online, she can volunteer in the community and make a positive difference in other people's lives.

  • NCSUer Feb 3, 2012

    "Just making a point; you can walk down the street, point at someone and yell "he stole my wallet" and get a story on the news without any proof or anything backing it up. just doing the same thing as the girl the story is about - isn't that ok?"

    Actually if you went to the police and said someone stole your wallet, and then the police said, "Sorry, our laws don't specifically mention stealing GREEN wallets, because when the laws were written there were only BLUE wallets." And then you went to the news with your story, and had everyone bash you for carrying your green wallet out in public in the first place-- if you left it at home it wouldn't have gotten stolen. Well in that case you'd have something in common with this girl.