A screenshot of the Facebook post
The photo is being used as part of a scam. Image by Facebook

‘Lost boy’ appeal debunk is child’s play

Lachlan Coady December 22, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Australian police have released an image in an attempt to reunite a lost boy with his family. 

OUR VERDICT

False. The image shows US police with a child who helped locate a missing man with Alzheimer's.

A post circulating on Facebook has appealed to the public to help find the parents of a purportedly lost boy in Mackay, Queensland.

Other viral posts appear to show the same child lost in other towns across Australia, including in Geelong and Burra in South Australia.

“We are seeking assistance in finding parents of this sweet little fella we found roaming around the streets of Mackay. He has autism and he doesn’t remember where he stays,” the post’s caption says.

However, a reverse image search tells a different story. The photo actually relates to a story from Fayetteville, Arkansas and is not connected to Australia or a lost boy with autism.

A screenshot of the Facebook post
 The post appeals to the public to help find the parents of a purportedly lost child in Mackay. 

The boy in the photo is a Fayetteville preschool student named Ezekiel, who assisted police in finding a missing man with Alzheimer’s disease. The photo first appeared in this Facebook post by Fayetteville police on February 17 this year.

The image also appears in a number of articles covering the incident, published shortly after the original announcement from Fayetteville police. According to a  report by a Fox News division, Ezekiel assisted police by informing them he had seen the missing man wandering through the woods earlier in the day.

Another clue that betrays the false post are the uniforms worn by the police officers. They do not match the uniforms of Queensland Police (examples here and here), Victorian Police (example here) or SA Police (example here). 

The false post has also been fact-checked by Lead Stories.

Lead Stories found that versions of the post on US-based pages appear to be part of a scam.

As soon as the ‘missing child’ posts get enough engagement, they are edited to promote what appears to be a real estate scam.

The Verdict

A claim that Australian police have released an image in an attempt to reunite a lost boy with his family is false.

A reverse image search reveals the photo originated in the US, appearing in a post from Fayetteville Arkansas police. The boy assisted police in finding a missing man with Alzheimer’s disease.

It appears the fake posts are part of a coordinated scam.

False ÔÇô The claim is inaccurate.

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