Think twice about sharing social media posts about missing child

Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 5:31 PM EDT
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CANTON, New York (WWNY) - Posts about a missing autistic child have been circulating on social media. It’s a hoax.

But people think it’s real and simply share the post. Once the plea for help is shared, the original poster may change the message to lead others to a scam or find other ways to take advantage of those who participated.

“Many of us do this. We forward things that we didn’t author, or we don’t know the author. It is pushing back on a usage of social media that is very common, but I think it is good to be aware of what the risks are when you do that,” said Jeanna Matthews, Clarkson University professor of computer science.

An associate professor with SUNY Canton’s cybersecurity department says this is called a social engineering attack.

Dr. Kambiz Ghazinour says scammers are after your personal identity, birthdate, Social Security or banking information.

“If you see something and you’re suspicious about it, it’s one of your citizen duties, cyber citizen duties to report it,” he said.

Ghazinour says scammers like to use empathy tactics like the autistic child on social media platforms knowing they tend to get more interaction.

Senior citizens and students in grades K through 12 typically fall for it.

“It’s one thing to say I will reference what somebody said. It’s a whole other thing to give them your platform,” said Matthews.