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Think twice before sharing ‘heartbreaking’ social media posts, RCMP warn

Mounties in B.C. are urging people to think twice before sharing “heartbreaking posts” on social media.

The Prince George RCMP issued a warning Thursday, explaining how these posts are used in online bait-and switch scams after one was reported in the city earlier this week.

“The original poster is usually asking for help in finding the owners of a lost dog or the parents of a lost child and social media users are encouraged to share the information in hopes of spreading awareness of what appears to be a gut-wrenching and attention-grabbing issue,” according to a Thursday media release.

Next, police say, the scammers change the content of the post, often to a fake rental ad or a bogus contest or a promise of some sort of cash payout.

“When your friends and family see this on your social media page, they believe it to be legitimate and are more likely to click the link, thinking it has been endorsed and vetted by you,” Prince George RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Cooper said.

The scam post reported to the detachment was shared to a neighbourhood group had a photo of a toddler saying the boy had been found in Prince George and taken to the police station – but that no one could identify him or find his parents. Mounties found the same exact post shared in community Facebook groups in California and Georgia.

Before sharing a post, police say it’s wise to search the original poster’s name and look for “red flags.” Those can include the account being new and the user having very few friends. A keyword search can also be useful to see if the same post has been shared in other groups, particularly in faraway locations. A reverse image search can also be useful in finding out if the post is a scam.

The Prince George RCMP also urges people to report these posts to the social media companies so they can be taken down.

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