Hoax posts about missing ‘William Daniels’ shared widely on Facebook

26 May 2023
What was claimed

A man with dementia named William Daniels has gone missing with his dog.

Our verdict

The man shown in the picture is not William Daniels, but a man from the US who died in 2022.

Posts shared in community Facebook groups across the UK claim that a man named William Daniels has gone missing with his dog. 

Full Fact has found several near-identical posts shared on social media, including in Limavady (Northern Ireland)Farnborough (Hampshire), Eastbourne (East Sussex) and Weymouth (Dorset).

The posts both use the same picture of an elderly man wearing a cap in the driver’s seat of a car, with a black dog sitting beside him in the passenger seat. 

They both also use the same text, which says: “Our Dad, William Daniels aged 84 drove out last night with his dog Cami 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.” 

But these are not real appeals. Besides the fact it’s impossible for the same man to have gone missing at the same time and in the same circumstances in multiple different places, the pictures used are of a different man who died in the US in 2022. We have written before about similarly false appeals using pictures of the same man. 

A reverse image search of the picture in the post shows that the photo is actually from a GoFundMe page set up by a man named Vern English in 2021, who appealed for help after being faced with the possibility of becoming homeless. 

Mr English, who ran a successful taxi business in Sonoma, California, died in August 2022

Claims like this are often posted to community Facebook buy, sell or trade groups, and have also falsely raised an alarm for abandoned babies or missing children. We’ve seen posts like these edited later to promote freebies, cashback or property listings. 

This behaviour means that local groups could become overwhelmed with false information. As a result, genuine missing and lost posts could 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. 

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 Solen Feyissa

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