A series of Facebook posts are claiming that a woman with dementia is lost and they appeal for help to identify her. However, these posts are hoaxes and Full Fact has written about almost identical posts before.
The posts all claim that a woman has arrived at a shelter with her dog but is lost due to having dementia.
One post, which appeared in a community group for Preston and has almost 450 shares , says: “URGENT SILVER ALERT! PLEASE FLOOD YOUR FEEDS!
“Does anyone recognise this lady? She showed up at our shelter in #preston with a dog but doesn't know where she is as she has dementia please message us ASAP if you know her. Please help us find her home asap. [sic]”
All the posts have identical text apart from the location, and use the same photo of an elderly lady. Full Fact has not been able to trace the origin of the photograph.
West Mercia Police has previously issued a warning about fake ‘missing people’ posts after similar hoaxes appeared in Worcester community groups, including one with almost identical text and the same photo to these.
A spokesperson from the force reportedly said: "We encourage people to always check the source of a missing person appeal before sharing on social media.
"If it has come from a police force or trusted local media source then your support in spreading the word is invaluable.
"Our public appeals regularly result in valuable information which help us find missing people."
These posts appear in several groups across the UK, including Gravesend, Clipstone in North Nottinghamshire and Falkirk in Scotland.
They have also been posted in groups in the US, such as Ocean County in New Jersey. In fact, it is likely that the post originated from the US as it makes a reference to a “silver alert”—a way of notifying the public about missing vulnerable people, for example those who are elderly or have dementia and other conditions—that only operates there.
Another useful clue that a post may be a hoax is that they often have their comment sections disabled (as is true for all of these hoaxes) to prevent people from calling out the posts as fake.
Hoaxes pose a risk to user engagement with local community news because groups can become overwhelmed with false information. As a result, genuine posts may 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 geralt