Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Claims of missing boy in various cities are scams | Fact check - USA TODAY

The claim: Image shows boy, dog missing from various locations

A May 21 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) shows a photo of a boy crying while a small white dog lies in his lap.

“HELP!!! #GreatFalls My son Brandon Smith took off this morning with our dog hank,” the post reads. “He is autistic and has been missing for eight hours if anyone sees him please PM me please re-post on any sites. I already contacted police.”

The post was shared nearly 100 times in four days. Other versions of the claim, including one that said the boy was missing in Elkhart, Indiana, were shared hundreds of additional times.

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Our rating: False

Police in the cities mentioned in the posts said they had no reports of a missing child matching the post's description. The photo in the post went viral in 2020 and is unrelated to a missing person report. The posts are examples of copy-and-paste schemes used by scammers to identify potential targets.

Photo went viral in 2020, does not show missing boy

Two police departments in areas mentioned in the posts told USA TODAY the claims are false.

“We do not have any active missing children cases at this time,” said Adrienne Ehrke, a spokesperson for the Great Falls Police Department in Montana.

Ehrke also said the Facebook group where the claim was made is “full of posts from fake profiles and scammers.”

The Elkhart Police Department in Indiana also had no reports...

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