The claim: Image shows a boy who went missing in various cities
“#Copiague This is the most recent picture of my son Tyler Griffin at his first day of school, he left yesterday morning for school and he never came back,” reads the caption of one such Nov. 17 Facebook post that was shared more than 1,500 times in four days.
The posts include a photo of a boy, a description of what he was supposedly wearing and a plea to help find him.
But the image is at least a decade old, and police departments in areas where the claim circulated said there are no reports of a missing person matching that description. An expert previously told USA TODAY such copy-and-paste tactics are used by scammers to identify potential victims.
USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the claim for comment.
No record of a missing 'Tyler Griffin' in Copiague
The Suffolk County Police Department, whose jurisdiction includes Copiague, New York, said the claim was false in a Nov. 18 Facebook post.
“Detectives have determined a post regarding missing boy, Tyler Griffin, is a hoax and that there is no missing child by that name in Suffolk County,” the post said.
Other versions of the claim use different cities, images
Another version of the post claims the boy went missing from was Brownsville, Texas.
Martin Sandoval, a spokesperson for the Brownsville Police Department, told USA TODAY the agency’s records “do not have any call for service about a missing child" and said that the name "Tyler Griffin" is not in its system.
The image included in the posts matches that of an 11-year-old boy who went missing in Washington in 2012, as reported at the time by The Spokesman-Review. The boy was later found safe, according to the newspaper.
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Jeffrey Blevins, a professor of journalism and public and international affairs at the University of Cincinnati, previously told USA TODAY that scammers use these copy-and-paste posts as “gullibility checks” to identify potential targets.
“They’re likely to circle back to you later to see what you’re willing to share, or they might try to engage you one-on-one, get you to accept a friend request, that kind of thing,” Blevins said.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim an image shows a boy who went missing in various cities. Police from several jurisdictions cited in variations of the post said there is no missing person matching the description in the social media posts, many of which include an image that is at least a decade old. The claim is the latest iteration of a copy-and-paste tactic that’s used by scammers to identify potential targets.
Our fact-check sources:
Jason Leidel, Nov. 21, Email to USA TODAY
Martin Sandoval, Nov. 21, Email to USA TODAY
CBS News, Nov. 18, Suffolk County Police warn residents of missing child hoax
Suffolk County Police Department, Nov. 18, Facebook post
WHAS 11, Nov. 17, Scam missing persons posts appear in Louisville Facebook groups
USA TODAY, Nov. 8, Fact check: Claims of missing uncle in multiple locations are a scam
USA TODAY, Oct. 28, Fact check: False claim hospitalized woman was mugged, stabbed in various places
USA TODAY, Aug. 24, Fact check: Various reports of missing girl are hoaxes, mislead communities
The Spokesman-Review, Jan. 28, 2012, 11-year-old boy missing in Spokane
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Decade-old image of missing boy used in recent scam posts