Hoax posts about ‘missing’ man ‘Martin Jones’ recirculating on social media

12 April 2023
What was claimed

A man with dementia named Martin Jones is missing with his dog.

Our verdict

This is a hoax post, which we have fact checked a number of times before. The man in the picture is not called Martin Jones.

Hoax posts claiming that an elderly man with dementia named Martin Jones has gone missing with his dog have been shared on social media.  

The posts say: “My uncle Mr Martin Jones aged 79 drove out with our dog Baxter and he 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.” 

We have written about fake appeals for the whereabouts of “Martin Jones” before. The picture used in the posts, of a man wearing a dark jacket and cap holding a small dog, is taken from a post thanking a local volunteer for a community group in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

The post is likely to have originated in the US as it makes a reference to a “silver alert”—a system designed to notify the public about missing vulnerable people, for example those who are elderly or have dementia and other conditions—that only operates there.

Full Fact has checked messages posted to community Facebook buy, sell or trade groups which falsely raise an alarm for missing children, abandoned infants or injured dogs. These posts are later edited to promote freebies, cashback or property listings, with comments frequently disabled, so that users who see what is happening are unable to call them out publicly. 

This behaviour poses a risk to user engagement with local community news as groups become overwhelmed with false information, and genuine missing and lost posts potentially get ignored or—perhaps worse for those desperately searching for loved ones—dismissed as false. We have written to Meta expressing these concerns and asking the company to take stronger action in response to this problem. 

Almost all of these posts have the comments turned off, in order to stop people from raising suspicions that they are fake. Derbyshire Police has previously said that posts like these with comments turned off is an indication that the posts are hoaxes.

It’s not always obvious why these fake alerts appear so frequently online, but we’ve seen a number of cases where they were edited after reaching a large number of people to advertise housing or survey websites instead. 

It’s always worth checking whether content is real before you share it. We have written a guide on how to verify viral images which you can read here.

Image courtesy of Apostolos Vamvouras


Correction 9 August 2023

This article has been corrected to clarify who silver alerts apply to.

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