Hoax appeal for missing boy and dog uses images of a child in the US first shared in 2019

28 April 2023
What was claimed

An autistic boy named Brandon Smith has gone missing with his dog, Hank.

Our verdict

The images in the post appear to be from a video shared in 2019 of a boy being reunited with his missing dog in the US.

A Facebook post shared to a buy and sell Facebook group called “Aber swap shop” claiming an autistic boy called Brandon has gone missing with his family dog uses images taken in 2019, which we previously wrote about after they were used in a nearly-identical set of hoax posts.

The post says: “HELP!!!  #aber MS 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. [sic]”

As we’ve previously explained, the pictures used in the posts have been circulating online since 2019, and reportedly show a boy in the US being reunited with his dog, Piper, which had been found after going missing for over a fortnight. 

They appear to be still images from a video apparently filmed when the boy’s mother surprised him with the dog.

We frequently see similar hoaxes circulating on Facebook involving fake appeals for missing children, elderly people and lost or injured animals.

These sorts of posts are often edited after being seen by a large number of people to instead advertise surveys or housing websites.

Hoax posts like these could overwhelm local community groups with false information. As a result, genuine missing person posts could be ignored or dismissed as false. We have written to Meta expressing these concerns and asking the company to take stronger action in response to this problem.

Image courtesy of Jorge Zapata

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