Uptick in missing child scams: How to avoid falling victim

DELMARVA – Scrolling social media seems innocent, until it’s not. We use it to share cute photos of family and friends or even our adorable pets.
And if they go missing, we enter a sharing frenzy, calling on other users to help bring them home.

But how do you know if it’s real or a scam?

Often times they look like this:

“My nephews been missing since yesterday please help find and there’s no information, there’s no police report number or sometimes there’s not even a name of a child,” explained Kat Johnson with Maryland Missing Persons Network.

The post looks genuine, from a scared parent. But the problem is, it’s far from that.

“Particularly they tend to target the local groups, like our ‘Ocean City Locals’ or ‘Locals Only’, those types of groups. There’s typically not a whole lot of purpose behind them because they’re not asking for money which is what you usually see with these types of scams,” said Ocean City Police Department Public Information Officer, Ashley Miller.

Missing child photos have been circulating social media across Delmarva, raising the alarm on a child that’s not actually missing or may not even exist.
Miller says, it’s a tactic that not only interferes with their investigations… but also builds mistrust within the community.

“You start wondering at the same time, why am I not seeing the Ocean City Police Department tell me about this kid? Why has it been a couple days? So you start thinking those questions and you start hitting the sharing and the more people that see it the more you’re questioning why don’t I know about this?”  said Miller.

And by hitting share, you’re compromising your account, giving hackers access.

Many of the posts use different pictures, from different accounts. The one thing they have in common is the description they’re using. So with all of those factors — how can you tell — what’s real and fake?

“Just verify, verify, verify. Don’t share something unless you’re 100% sure,” said Johnson.

“You will know that it’s true and an actual missing person thing when it’s coming from the ocean city police department’s Facebook page or Twitter. When we’re pushing it out on our verified blue check social media,” said Miller.

You can also check Maryland State Police’s website to verify the person’s name and case number.

Or visit the National Missing and Unidentified Missing Person website.

In the meantime, be cautious before you share and if you are concerned someone is missing call your local police department directly.



Categories: Crime, Local News, Maryland