A disturbing Snapchat from a stranger left a woman in Iowa wondering if her daughter is safe.
Now Stephanie Zaehringer, a mom of two in Wilton, Iowa, is warning other parents to be careful about what they post.
Zaehringer said someone sent her a picture of her 4-year-old daughter in a swimsuit on Snapchat with an inappropriate caption Sunday afternoon.
“It was just her and her friend playing on a slip n slide. Innocent picture of a 4-year-old,” Zaehringer said. “It just said on it, ‘This looks like a fun time. Yum, yum,’ with a sticking-out-like disgusting emoji.”
She originally posted the picture on her private Facebook page, where Zaehringer said she thought only friends could access it. When she got the Snapchat on Sunday, Zaehringer realized that wasn’t the case.
“I was sick to my stomach,” she said.
Now the mom is left wondering if it was a sick joke or if someone is after her daughter.
“We live in in Wilton. It’s a pretty small town,” Zaehringer said. “So you would never expect that.”
However, detective Dan Grafton with the Scott County Sheriff’s Department said incidents like this aren’t rare.
“These people are around here,” he said.
The pictures almost always come from social media, Grafton said. That’s why it’s important to secure your accounts so only friends can see what you post.
Grafton also said social media users need to make sure their friends are actually people you know.
“Go through your list and say, ‘You know, do I know that person? Do I physically know that person or did they add me on Facebook and I thought I recognized the name and I hit accept?'” he said. “Because that very well could be someone you don’t know and somebody that’s up to no good.”
Grafton searched the username that sent the image to Zaehringer on Snapchat and in a statewide database. He found the account, but it’s hard to know anything else about the user.
“The way technology’s going it is so hard,” he said. “It is so difficult to track these people.”
That’s why Zaehringer is telling parents to be careful about what they post.
“I’m actually deleting every picture of my children off my Facebook,” she said. “Pretty much all I share is my children, but it’s not worth it for it get into the wrong hands.”
Grafton said if something similar happens to you report it to police. Then go through and double check your privacy settings and your friends list. He also said it doesn’t hurt to make a new account.