Avoid this “lost injured dog” Facebook hoax

Facebook users are advised to be wary of posts involving injured dogs receiving treatment at a vet surgery, or pets sitting next to people post-operation adorned with bandages and plaster casts.

The dog-themed missives all follow a similar format, with the primary change between them being the location the post is supposedly coming from. Here’s an example:

Hello. If anyone is looking for this sweet girl, found her lying on the side road in [hashtagged location name]. She was hit by a car in a hit and run incident.I took her to the vet. She is in a critical condition,sustained multiple fractures and on pain relief and oxygen.She is not chipped. I know someone is looking for her. Please bump this post to help me find the owner.

Fake Facebook dog operation post

The images are randomly sourced, with many of the posts reusing the same photographs. Comments are often disabled.

Who is doing this? Well, in terms of the individual accounts on display, they’re a variety of personal accounts with little to no posting history. They’ve either been compromised first and then wiped clean of content, or they’re spam accounts with a recent creation date. The examples we’ve seen strongly suggest the latter.

As for posting tactics, they follow the standard Facebook spam tactic of being posted to local community / classified / real estate groups for maximum exposure. This is something which happens a lot, and was used to great effect in the “dead daughter / free PS5” campaign from the middle of last year.

What, specifically, are these bogus dog in the vet stories for? The scammers are banking on sympathetic engagement off the back of the heartstring tugging tale. With enough engagement, eyeballs, replies, anything at all of value…the posts switch to something else altogether.

This is exactly what was happening back in December with another Facebook scam. There, mostly freshly minted accounts posted up harrowing tales of missing toddlers dumped outside the gates of their homes. Eventually, they would become adverts promoting a variety of decidedly non-missing baby content.

Content switcheroo scams on Facebook are incredibly manipulative, and there’s a fair chance that such behaviour likely drives people away from engaging with genuine “missing baby / relative / injured pet” warnings down the line.

There are, however, a few things you can do to keep your Facebook house in order.

Avoiding Facebook hoaxes

  • No replies allowed. Disabled replies can be a major warning flag. If you’re asking for help or giving a warning, why limit the number of people who can reply?
  • If there’s a photograph, try performing a reverse image search. This is where you try to deduce the origin of the image. These scams are lazy; image reuse is rife, often going back many years. There are dedicated sites for this, such as TinEye. There, you either upload an image or provide a URL and TinEye will find any matches from across the internet. Most search engines also offer some reverse image search functionality, though quality of results will inevitably vary. It’s worth noting that sometimes scammers will flip an image (from left to right or vice versa) to try and fool reverse image searches. Deepfaked images will also typically not produce results.
  • Copy / paste that text. Take the text of the suspicious post and search for that, too. You may well find a whole raft of cut and paste efforts across multiple social media portals.
  • Freshly baked scammers. If the site the message or photo is posted to displays details about the person who posted it, see if it’ll let you observe things like account creation date or if the name on the account has been altered. A new account with no other content has likely been set up to scam people.

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