Hoax posts about ‘missing uncle’ Martin Jones shared widely online

10 March 2023
What was claimed

A man in a photograph is called Martin Jones, and has gone missing with his dog in England.

Our verdict

This is not a real appeal. The man pictured is someone with a different name from the US.

Hoax posts about a “missing uncle” named Martin Jones have been shared hundreds of times on social media. 

The posts have appeared in local Facebook groups in Bristol, Oldham and Nuneaton, and all feature the same picture of a man holding a dog alongside near-identical wording about “Mr Martin Jones” and his dog “Baxter”. 

An example of the full text of the post reads: “URGENT- MISSING! #Bristol. My uncle Mr Martin Jones aged 79 drove out yesterday 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 me bump this post so I can get him home safely.” 

We have written fact checks about very similar fake posts concerning allegedly missing elderly people before. 

Besides the obvious fact that it would be impossible for the same man to have gone missing from at least three locations at once, the picture also does not show a man called Martin Jones.

Full Fact has traced the picture back to a community Facebook group in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the original post thanking a local volunteer

These types of fake posts are very common, and are often found in “buy and sell” or other local interest Facebook posts where social media users are urged to share them. They take a number of forms, including lost puppies, injured dogs, missing children and abandoned babies

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 comments turned off is an indication that the posts are hoaxes.

It’s not always obvious why these fake alerts are posted so frequently, 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 David Sinclair

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