Posts purporting to show Tyler Miller, a boy who has gone missing, are fake. These are scam posts showing Maggie Banyard, a girl with leukemia.
A photo of a child with blonde hair wearing a red jacket is being circulated on Facebook, claiming that the child has gone missing. The caption reads, "This is the most recent picture of my son Tyler Miller, he left yesterday morning for baseball training, and he never came back." The post describes the appearance of the allegedly missing child and asks individuals to assist in finding him.
A quick search on Facebook revealed that the same message, with nearly identical appeals for help, had spread to local Facebook groups worldwide, from the U.S. to the United Kingdom, garnering hundreds of shares. The comments on all such posts have also been disabled. However, these Facebook posts about the missing child, "Tyler Miller," are false and are part of a scam.
Through a reverse image search, we found that the child in the red jacket in the viral Facebook posts is a 14-year-old named Maggie Banyard, who has been diagnosed with leukemia and is searching for a stem cell donor. Anthony Nolan, a UK-based charity working in leukemia and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, states that Maggie is currently in hospital. On further search, we discovered a website dedicated to Maggie, created to connect her with a compatible stem cell donor. According to the website, Maggie has been admitted to a children's hospital in Sydney, Australia.
Maggie's image has also been used in countless other fake missing-person Facebook posts, including some about one ''Andrew Sanders.'' On December 17, 2022, Surrey Police posted a screenshot of a Facebook post that used Maggie's image but purported to depict the supposedly missing "Andrew Sanders." The Surrey police stated that there had been no complaints of a child going missing by that name. The police added that similar posts in other Facebook groups around the U.K. were using variations of this name and the same photographs and warned people not to interact with such posts. It urged people to constantly monitor official police social media channels for details on missing people who posed a danger.
The lack of formal contact information is a potential red flag with such posts, indicating that they are fake. Another technique for detecting phony appeals is to check whether the comments have been disabled, which is commonly done to dissuade people from reporting that the post is not genuine.
We found that in November 2022, Derbyshire Police issued a warning to avoid sharing Facebook posts about missing people that have comments disabled. The Derbyshire Police emphasized that anyone trying to reconnect with a missing individual would not disable comments and cautioned people not to share such messages.
Similar inauthentic posts about allegedly missing children have previously gone viral on social media, and other independent fact-checking organizations have debunked such claims. The picture and name of the child are sometimes changed; we observed that once they have garnered enough attention, the posts are edited to advertise housing or surveys.
The viral Facebook posts about a missing child called Tyler Miller are not genuine missing person alerts. The girl in the photo is an Australian girl with blood cancer and has no connection to the claim made in the viral post. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.