Hundreds of people have shared hoax appeals searching for a missing man with dementia named ‘George’ across the UK.
Full Fact has seen examples searching for ‘George Smith’ shared in Yeovil and Nailsea in Somerset, Long Eaton in Derbyshire and Inverclyde, Scotland. The same images and text have also been used in hoax posts claiming to search for ‘George Wayne’ in Winchester (Hampshire), High Wycombe (Buckinghamshire) and again in both Long Eaton and Inverclyde. Together, these posts have been shared more than 1,800 times.
The posts all use near-identical text, which says: “FLOOD YOUR FEEDS ~ MISSING!! in[location].
“Our Dad, George Smith aged 74 drove out last night in his Toyota Hilux truck and he still hasn’t returned. He doesn’t know where he’s going, he has dementia.
“There is a silver alert activated on him. Please help bump this post so we can get him home safely.”
They also use the same collage of three images—a close-up image of a man wearing a grey hat, another of the same man with a group of children and a third image of a red truck.
But the man in the picture does not go by either of these names, and is not missing in the UK. The pictures appear to have been taken from a recent appeal for a 74-year-old veteran who went missing in Brook Park, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.
The man was found several days after going missing from his home “in a confused state” and is expected to recover.
We have not been able to trace the original picture of the red truck shown in the posts, but a UK number plate search confirms the vehicle is a Toyota and has up-to-date tax and MOT registrations. The man actually pictured in the posts was instead reported to be driving a dark blue/green 2000 Buick LeSabre.
We have previously fact checked many similar posts which claimed to be searching for other elderly missing people, often also identified as having dementia.
As with the hoax about ‘George’, many of these posts also make reference to a “silver alert”. This is an indication that the posts are likely to have originated in the US as the “silver alert” system—designed to notify the public about missing people, usually those who are elderly with dementia or similar conditions—only operates there.
We have previously checked many different posts on Facebook buy, sell or trade groups which falsely raise an alarm for missing children, abandoned infants or injured dogs.
These posts are often edited later to promote things like property listings, with comments frequently disabled, so that users who see what is happening are unable to call them out publicly.
This may cause local community groups to become overwhelmed with false information and potentially result in genuine appeals being ignored or dismissed as fake. We have written to Facebook’s parent company Meta expressing these concerns and asking the company to take stronger action in response to this problem.
It’s always worth checking whether content is real before you share it. We have written a guide on how to verify misleading images which you can read here.
Image courtesy of Solen Feyissa