Fake birth parents appeal on Facebook uses US photographer’s picture

31 May 2023
What was claimed

A woman, pictured as a child, is searching for her birth parents on Facebook.

Our verdict

The picture was taken by a photographer based in Seattle and is being used in multiple posts giving different details about who is searching and her mother’s name.

Several posts in local Facebook groups claiming to be from young women looking for their birth parents are fake. 

Although the posts use the same photograph of a young child, the details given are different: one claims to have been born in Plymouth and the other in Avonmouth, Bristol. They also give different birth dates and different names of all involved. 

But both say their mother was 16 at the time of their birth, that they are looking for their birth parents, and end with the text: “That's all info I have for now. Please bump this post and help me reunite with my family. I really need them at this point of my life [sic].”

Both are accompanied by the same black and white picture of a young child. However, this picture was published in 2011 on the website of a photographer in Seattle who specialises in “outdoor family photography, spontaneous portraits of children in the Seattle area, weddings, and life celebrations”.

Another clue that one of the posts is fake is that the user’s name doesn’t match the name of the person who is allegedly seeking their parents.

The comments under both posts have been disabled, and Derbyshire Police has previously warned that this can be a clue that such posts are hoaxes, as someone genuinely looking for information is very unlikely to turn off comments.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen fake claims about searches for birth parents appear in community Facebook buy, sell or trade groups. We often also see false claims about abandoned babies, missing children and found dogs. 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, people genuinely trying to trace relatives or look for missing people 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 John Schnobrich

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