Hoax posts that claim to be searching for a missing man with Alzheimer’s are being shared online.
One post, which has been shared to a Facebook buy-and-sell page for Barton in Yorkshire and has more than 100 shares, says: “FLOOD YOUR FEEDS ~ MISSING!! In Barton […] Our Dad, Fredrick Miller aged 73 drove out last night with his dog Doozy and he still hasn’t returned. He doesn’t know where he’s going, he has Alzheimer [sic]. There is a silver alert activated on him. Please help bump this post so we can locate and get him home safely.”
Almost identical posts appear in community groups for Bournemouth and Saffron Walden in Essex within days of each other. It’s also been shared in Facebook groups around the world, such as Trinidad and Tobago and across multiple US states including Milan in Tennessee, Bristol County in Massachusetts, Washington in Illinois, Boyd County in Kentucky, Pickens County in South Carolina and Union Springs in Alabama.
The posts all share the same photo of a man with a dog. However, a reverse image search shows the photo comes from a 2020 Reddit post with the caption: “The look my dog gives my grandpa”.
Full Fact has written about many other hoax posts concerning missing elderly people before. They often follow a pattern, claiming the person has dementia or other conditions, was walking a dog and doesn't know where they are. The hoax posts use similar phrasing such as “flood your feeds” and “bump this post”.
Moreover, we often see posts like these refer to a “silver alert” being activated. This is a system designed to notify the public about missing vulnerable people, for example those who are elderly, that only operates in the US. So it would not be used if someone genuinely went missing in the UK.
Hoax posts like these come in a variety of forms including abandoned babies, missing children and injured pets. We’ve recently published an investigation into how and why these posts are shared so widely, which you can read here.
These types of posts can cause local community groups to become overwhelmed with false information, which could potentially mean genuine appeals are ignored or—perhaps worse—dismissed as fake.
It’s always worth considering whether something is real before sharing it online—you can read more about how to spot Facebook hoax posts using our guide here. We’ve written to Meta expressing these concerns and asking the company to take stronger action in response to this problem.