The grieving parents of a baby who died say they burst into tears after finding out a suspected online scam is using an image of their son in hospital.
Nine-month-old Oliver Steeper was being looked after at Jelly Beans Day Nursery in Ashford when he became unable to breathe after choking on food.
He died six days later at Evelina London Children's Hospital and his parents, Lewis and Zoe Steeper, set up The Oliver Steeper Foundation to raise funds for anti-choking devices in their little boy’s memory.
But the pair have told of their disgust after finding out someone appears to have hacked the Facebook account of an 80-year-old and started making posts sharing a picture of Oliver in hospital asking for money.
In a post on the charity’s Facebook page, Mr and Mrs Steeper warned their followers of the alleged scam.
“We have been made aware of a scam asking people for money using my photo of Oliver from September 2021 during the darkest times of our lives,” the post read.
“We are beyond heartbroken at this and absolutely despise anyone doing this.
“I will now be seeking legal advice against both the account holder and the account holder of the email address shown.
“How could someone be so deceitful to use our little boy, a picture from the darkest times of our life, to deceit people out of money?”
“Please DO NOT give money to anyone asking for anything to do with Oliver, unless it's our own official GoFundMe page. Angry doesn't cover it.”
Oliver's dad, Lewis, said seeing the scam made him angry and the picture which has been used was taken just a few days before his son died.
“One of our friends sent us the post so I immediately went to find it,” he said.
“I was livid. We were both just reduced to tears.
“How could someone be so deceitful to use our little boy, a picture from the darkest times of our life, to deceit people out of money? It’s absolutely disgusting and I just hope no one has fallen for it.”
Mr Steeper says he has reported the account to PayPal and asked for any donations made to be returned. He has also contacted the page which the post was made from and says it is an 80-year-old woman who has been hacked.
“We have our own official fundraising page and that’s the only one we use,” he added.
“I haven’t contacted the police yet but I am going to.”
Despite this heartbreak, Mr Steeper said it is humbling to see followers of their foundation have got their backs emotionally and physically.
“They support us and we couldn’t do it without them,” he said.
“We are thankful to them for the support – life unfortunately has to go on and this is just another bump in the road that we’ve got to get over in terms of what’s in store for us in life.”
The Oliver Steeper Foundation has raised more than £14,000 so far and the couple have applied for charity status.
To make a donation to The OIiver Steeper Foundation, click here.
“It’s doing fantastically,” Mr Steeper said.
“It’s the most wonderful distraction to keep those feelings. You sit there and cry but then you think about the foundation and actually what it has achieved in the short time we’ve been going.”