Viral Facebook posts about missing person ‘George Smith’ are fake

By: Annet Preethi Furtado
August 16 2023

Share Article: facebook logo twitter logo linkedin logo
Viral Facebook posts about missing person ‘George Smith’ are fake


The Verdict False

The posts purporting to show 'George Smith' actually shows images of Timothy Guzzo, who was found after he went missing in the U.S., not in the U.K.

Claim ID 73970ac9


What's the claim?

Facebook posts appealing for help locating a purportedly missing man named 'George,' who has dementia, have rapidly circulated throughout the U.K. These posts feature the caption: "FLOOD YOUR FEEDS ~ MISSING!! in Nailsea. Our Dad, George Smith, aged 74 drove out last night in his Toyota Hilux truck and he still hasn't returned. He doesn't know where he's going; he has dementia. There is a silver alert activated on him. Please help bump this post so we can get him home safely."

The text posts about the missing 'George Smith' predominantly surfaced within buy-and-sell communities in the U.K. The posts include an identical compilation of three images: a close-up picture of a man wearing a hat, another picture of the same man with five children, and a third image showing a red truck, which is purportedly the vehicle he was using. Notably, the locations mentioned in these posts vary from Yeovil in Somerset, Long Eaton in Derbyshire, and Nailsea in the U.K. The archives can be found here and here

The images are being shared on Facebook to claim 'George Smith' is missing in Yeovil, U.K. (Source: Facebook/Roxane R. Barnes/Altered by Logically Facts)

However, the person portrayed in the posts is Timothy Guzzo, who was reported missing in the U.S. in late July and was subsequently found.

What's the truth?

Following a reverse image search of the close-up photo featuring the man, we found several local news reports published on July 28, 2023. These news reports spoke about the search by the family of a missing individual from Brook Park in Ohio, the U.S., identified as Timothy Guzzo, a former U.S. Marine. The reports added that the family said Guzzo had mental health issues, severe COPD, was off his medication, and was likely to be confused.

Furthermore, the Brook Park Police Department, in their official statement on Facebook, shared the same close-up image of Guzzo seen in the viral posts and a photo of a blue car. The police department said that Guzzo was observed leaving his residence in Brook Park around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26. The authorities also provided details about Guzzo's vehicle: a blue 2000 Buick LeSabre with an Ohio license plate (EOZ19460, in contrast with the red truck depicted in the Facebook posts.

Screenshot of the Brook Park Police Department's updated Facebook post. (Source: Facebook/Brook Park Police Department/Altered by Logically Facts)

While Guzzo was located on July 29, Facebook posts featuring the supposed call for help finding 'George Smith' were posted on August 5. Additionally, the posts mentioned different locations the individual is allegedly missing from.

Further, the image of the red truck in the posts features a license plate reading "HY06 EHR." This number plate's sequence of numbers and letters adheres to the standard format observed in U.K. license plates. Notably, HY06E registrations are affiliated with the city of Portsmouth, according to Motorscan, a platform for accessing records of vehicle ownership and maintenance history.

Screenshot of the red truck with the license plate "HY06 EHR," purportedly driven by 'George Smith,' according to the Facebook posts. (Source: Facebook/Roxane R. Barnes/Altered by Logically Facts)

Upon entering the registration number, HY06 EHR on the U.K. government's website to verify a vehicle's taxation and Ministry of Transport (MOT) test status, we discovered that the number corresponds to a Toyota vehicle. This vehicle had current tax and MOT registrations.

The number plate search result on GOV.UK says the vehicle is a red Toyota (Source: GOV.UK)

Similar to the misleading details about the name and the location, the Facebook posts also reported a "silver alert." The "silver alert" system, which notifies the public about missing individuals, specifically older people or those with developmental or cognitive impairments, is exclusive to the U.S. and operates within its borders. This indicates that the posts likely originated in the U.S. rather than the U.K.

The verdict

The person shown in the viral Facebook posts is Timothy Guzzo, not George Smith. The viral images of the supposedly missing man were sourced from a plea for assistance locating Guzzo, who had gone missing in Brook Park, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. He was subsequently found on July 29, and the Brook Park Police Department has since retracted the missing adult alert for Guzzo. 


Would you like to submit a claim to fact-check or contact our editorial team?

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