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Missing person or lost pet social media posts not always real, B.C. RCMP warn

Scammers urge people to share ‘heartbreaking’ posts, then change content to ad or fraudulent contest
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Two Facebook screenshots show how a scammer has made the same false post in multiple different community groups, claiming a little boy was missing. Once the post has been shared enough, B.C. RCMP say the scammer will then change its contents to an ad or fraudulent contest. (Screenshots courtesy of Prince George RCMP)

RCMP in B.C. are warning residents that some social media posts claiming to be about a missing person or lost pet may actually be an attempt by fraudsters to spread their own message.

Social media users in Prince George notified police of one such scam on Tuesday (May 14) when they noticed the exact same post about a missing boy that had been made in their own community Facebook group had also been made in various town groups across North America.

The post claimed that a two-year-old boy had been found in Prince George and was safe at the police station, but that nobody knew where he lived. The poster urged people to share the post.

An identical post was made in Facebook pages called “High Desert Deals and Discussion” and “Pierce County Online Yard Sale.”

Prince George RCMP say scammers wait until their post has been spread sufficiently and then change its contents, often to a deceptive rental advertisement or fraudulent contest with the promise of a cash payout. To people scrolling through social media, it then appears that their friend or family member intentionally shared that material, and RCMP say they’re more likely to click a link.

“Once they have clicked through to the link, they could be asked to share personal information, which can lead to identity theft, or they will be asked for a deposit on the fake rental property,” Corp. Jennifer Cooper explained in a statement.

To prevent this from happening, RCMP say people should check things out before sharing “heartbreaking” posts on social media. Police suggest running a search of the poster’s name to see if they have multiple accounts on the same social media platform, few friends or a very new account. Each of these can be a red flag, police say.

People are also urged to search key words from the post to see if the same thing has been posted in other parts of the world. They can also run a reverse image search for the same purpose.

In general, RCMP say people should avoid clicking links if they aren’t sure they are coming from a legitimate source. And, if they see something that looks fraudulent, they should report it.

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