Fake appeal for ‘missing child Sofia’ viral on social media

By: Chandan Borgohain
July 4 2023

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Fake appeal for ‘missing child Sofia’ viral on social media


The Verdict False

The photo is taken from a 2021 BBC article about a family's stolen dogs and doesn’t show a missing girl.

Claim ID b2986015


A photo of a child with two dogs is being shared on Facebook with the claim that a girl named Sofia is missing. Wearing a green jacket and pink boots, the girl is holding two dachshunds with pink leashes in the photo. Several users, posing as the child's family members, have shared the pictures. One such Facebook post from June 30 read: "Help!!! MISSING Child!! #bexleyheath 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!!" Over 380 accounts had shared a post with the same caption at the time of publishing. However, such posts are fake and don't show a missing child.

In Fact

We performed a reverse image search on the photo and came across a BBC article published with the same picture on February 10, 2021. The article titled "Stolen dogs: Couple offer £20k life savings for return of pets" identified the girl by a different name and not 'Sofia' as claimed on Facebook. Moreover, the story is not about the girl but rather the theft of two dogs seen in the picture. According to BBC, the dogs were stolen from one Ruth Benson's home in North Yorkshire in Northern England. The report added that the picture shows Benson's daughter with their stolen dogs. 

Multiple users shared the viral photo on Facebook with the same text for different locations across the United Kingdom. While some claimed the photo to be from Bexleyheath, others claimed it was from Burntwood and some said it was from Allhallows. However, it is not possible for the same child to be missing across several locations.

Another indication that these posts are fake is that all of them have turned off comments, which is likely done to prevent users from commenting and exposing the true nature of the post. Further, had the posts actually been about a missing child, comments would have been permitted in order to collect leads and information about the child's whereabouts. 

We also noticed that the users referred to a "silver alert" in their posts. However, the Silver Alert is a public notification system to broadcast information about missing persons that only functions in the United States and not in the U.K., from where the posts claim the girl has gone missing.

It is to be noted that such fake appeals about a 'missing child,' shared on community pages relating to separate places, is a common Facebook hoax. Several fact-checking organizations have debunked similar posts about missing children and dogs in the past. 

The Verdict

A photograph of a young girl published in an article on BBC about stolen dogs is being peddled as that of a 'missing child' named Sofia. This is not true and is an example of copy-and-paste scam posts.

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before