Scammers are preying on kind-hearted social media users. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Cruel missing girl post preys on Facebook users

Lachlan Coady July 12, 2023

Facebook users are being asked to help find a missing five-year-old girl.


False. The girl in the photo is not missing. The plea is part of an online scam.

Facebook community group members are being urged to share a photo of a “missing girl” in a bid to reunite her with her family.

But the post is a scam. The pictured girl is not missing. The intention of those behind the post is to prompt people to share it, before it is then altered to display a real estate advertisement with suspicious links.

The post (archived here) has been shared on numerous community pages in the UK, US, Australia and elsewhere (examples here, here, here and here).

The image features a girl with her two dogs.

Missing girl scam
 The post claims that a granddaughter is missing, but the photo has been stolen from a news report. 

“Help!!! MISSING Child!! #Falkirk My grand daughter Sofia only 5years old went out on her bike earlier today and she still hasn’t returned. She doesn’t know where she’s going, new surroundings.There is a silver alert activated on her. Please help bump this post so we can get her home safely!!” the caption says.

But the photo has been copied from a 2021 BBC news report about a pair of missing dachshunds in North Yorkshire, England.

The girl pictured, Ruby, was not missing. The article instead reported that she was devastated at the loss of dogs, Purdy and Pippin.

The “silver alert” referred to in the post is used in the US for missing senior citizens rather than children.

Similar posts with different images have appeared in Facebook groups around the world, including Australia (examples here, here here and here).

The name of the location and the girl are often changed, but otherwise, the caption remains identical.

Once the posts are shared to a certain extent, they’re edited to show real estate advertisements which prompt users to click on suspicious links (examples here, here, here and here).

Scammers are making thousands of Facebook posts like this that encourage people to share them and/or click nefarious links.

That means you may be tricked into a scam or sharing a scam with your family and friends on Facebook without realising it.

That’s why it’s vital to know how to spot a potential scam post.


Treat posts appealing for help to find lost or found people or pets, offering extremely cheap or free products and services with caution if they include more than one of the following features:

* The person encourages everyone to share their post widely.

* They don’t provide their contact details or they ask people to send them a DM or PM (direct message or private message).

* The post includes only very vague details about the location of the person or pet, or the giveaway.

* If the account of the person posting is less than a year old, has no profile picture, has very few friends, or isn’t located in the same area as the subject of their post.

* If you can’t comment on the post because the person has disabled comments. This is done to stop people from warning others that it’s a scam.

The Verdict

Facebook users are being asked to help find a missing five-year-old girl.

This is a scam. The images used in the post relate to a 2021 story about two missing dogs.

Once the posts have a certain amount of interaction, they are changed to display a real estate advert with suspicious links.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is an accredited member of the International Fact-Checking Network. To keep up with our latest fact checks, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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