Fake missing autistic boy and dog posts go viral on social media

3 April 2023
What was claimed

An autistic boy called Brandon Smith has gone missing with a dog called Hank in various locations around the UK.

Our verdict

The images are of a boy in the US being reunited with his lost family pet.

Multiple posts have been shared on various local community Facebook groups claiming an autistic boy called Brandon has gone missing with his family dog.

The posts say a variation of the following: “My son Brandon Smith took off this morning with our dog hank. 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.”

As well as the fact that multiple different Facebook users are claiming to be Brandon’s mother, the biggest clue that this is false is that the pictures used in the post first appeared online in 2019 and reportedly show a boy in the US being reunited with his previously lost family dog. 

The family lost their pug Piper in November 2019 but a few weeks later an animal shelter told them a similar looking dog had been picked up. The pictures in the posts are screenshots of a video apparently filmed when the boy’s mother surprised him with the fact that Piper had been found.

Full Fact has written many times about similar ‘missing people’ hoaxes, including a very similar post about an autistic boy supposedly missing with his family dog, also named Hank, which used different images. We have also fact checked claims about missing children, abandoned babies and lost elderly people with dementia.

We’ve seen a number of instances where these sorts of posts have been edited after reaching a lot of people to instead advertise surveys or housing websites. 

Image courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez

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