Mother Horrified Son's Picture Was Used in Scam on Craigslist

Jenni Brennan said scammer is using her baby's picture to lure consumers.

ByABC News
August 3, 2009, 2:20 PM

Aug. 4, 2009— -- Jake Brennan is a happy baby. He likes to play with his brother's "big boy toys" and is learning to walk, using furniture to steady himself.

And he's definitely not up for adoption.

Yet the Abington, Mass., 9-month-old's picture, stolen from the Brennan family blog, is now being used in an apparent Internet adoption scam, with a Craigslist post advertising the little boy as a Canadian-born orphan now living in Cameroon.

"I felt angry -- really, really incredibly angry," Jake's mother, Jenni Brennan told today, saying anger was just one in a "range of emotions" about her son's picture being used by scammers.

Brennan, 30, said the family had been using a WordPress blog for nearly two years to update the family on her children's milestones, including stories and pictures. She and husband Josh Brennan, 29, routinely looked at the hits the blog was getting and saw through the site's tracking technology that those hits were coming from family and friends interested in the daily trappings of life with Jake and big brother Jackson, 3.

But then Brennan said she got an e-mail from a woman she had never met, warning her that some of the pictures of Jake kept on the family's blog were being used by a scammer who was using Craigslist to lure potential adopters.

Brennan said she and her husband thought the woman's e-mail itself was a scam or a phishing tool used to get information about them.

"It was really short," she said. "I think it said 'Urgent -- Please open about Jacob.'"

When concern about their son won out over concern about their privacy, the Brennans decided to very cautiously e-mail the woman back.

Turns out Jenni Brennan said that the woman's friend had fallen for an adoption scam from a St. Theresa Conception Parish which asks for $300 to start the adoption process about a year ago.

And when she saw the same ad pop up again she posed as an interested adopter to see what the scammer would send back.

What she got, Brennan said, was a picture of Jake Brennan, a chubby blond-haired little boy. Because the family's blog address popped up when users rolled their mouse over Jake's picture, the woman knew where to find the Brennans.

Jenni Brennan said her first response was to click on the ad itself -- housed in the London Craigslist's childcare section -- and fire off an angry e-mail to the scammer demanding that Jake's no longer be used without her permission.

Brennan said she never heard back and when she created a fake e-mail address the next day to contact the scammer as a potential adopter of her own son, they e-mailed her Jake's picture from when he was about 7 months old.

The advertisement's headline reads "Cute Baby Boy Available for Adoption."