Posts about a lost woman with dementia are a hoax

23 February 2023
What was claimed

The woman in the photograph has dementia and is lost with her dog and needs to be identified.

Our verdict

This is a hoax. The same image has been posted across multiple community pages around the world, and has been identified as a hoax by a Canadian search and rescue team.

Posts on Facebook are appealing for people to identify a woman they claim has dementia and is lost. But these appeals are a hoax, and follow the same pattern as other hoaxes we have checked before.

The posts claim that the woman and her dog have arrived at a shelter but that she “doesn’t know where she is”.

The posts have been shared in community Facebook groups across the world, and begin with: “URGENT ALERT! FLOOD YOUR FEEDS! does anyone recognise this lady?” 

They end with: “Please help us find her home”.

The posts all use identical wording, with different locations, and have the same photo of an elderly woman. The appeals have appeared on community groups across the country, including Maidenhead in Berkshire, Rugeley in Staffordshire and Crewe in Cheshire. The appeals have also been posted as far as Nova Scotia in Canada and Crosby in Texas. 

Full Fact has not been able to trace the origin of the photograph. However, Cape Breton Search and Rescue in Nova Scotia posted a warning about this post being shared on Facebook, and said that scammers use topics like “missing grannies and lost puppies” to attract attention. 

It listed ways to identify this type of hoax by checking whether the account has any local connections, if it's been posted across different groups and if the comments section has been disabled. 

Comments had been disabled on several examples of this post we have seen.

The Derbyshire police’s online safety team also said that disabling the comments section is a big red flag. 

Commenting on a similar hoax about a missing boy with autism, it said:“If the comments are disabled, DO NOT SHARE. Once shared a number of times, the post is edited to something else, such as crypto investments or fake scam giveaways.

“If you shared the original post, the new scam post appears in your name too. Think. If you were trying to locate a vulnerable child, would you really disable comments?”

Full Fact has written a number of similar fact checks on posts shared on Facebook about missing children, abandoned babies and pets

We’ve often seen posts like this being changed after reaching a large audience, so that they advertise surveys or housing websites instead.

Image courtesy of PatInver

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