Why You Shouldn’t Share Missing Person Posts

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We’ve all seen it. You’re scrolling through Twitter or Facebook when you come across a post about a missing person. Of course, your first instinct is to share the post to help find the person and get them home. However, if you blindly share these without doing research first, you could be doing more harm than good.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) revealed that these posts don’t always have the best intentions, and sometimes the missing person isn’t missing at all.

RCMP warned that “by sharing these photos you may be putting a life at risk. Sometimes the missing children in the posts that you share are not actually missing. They may actually be hiding for their own safety.”

An abused spouse or child “may be in hiding for their own protection.”

For example, “a parent who has been forbidden any access to their children through a court order might put their children’s photos on Facebook and claim them as missing.”

Sometimes these missing person posts are even used to find people who are in protection programs or have changed their identity. By sharing these missing person posts, you could be exposing someone escaping domestic violence, gang connections, or having been a witness to a serious crime. One Swedish woman changed her identity to leave her abusive ex-husband, only to be found through one of these missing person posts, forcing her to go through the whole process again.

So how do you tell if a missing person post is real or not? Police advise that if the post doesn’t originate from a “confirmed police source or [come] with a link to a reputable newspaper or media outlet showing that the police are actively searching, then it is likely not legitimate.” You should also check for a location and date in the missing person report. If the post does not include these, contact the police to confirm if the missing person report is real or not.

And if you do ever see a missing person, always call the police and not a random number posted online.