Fact Check: Hospitalized Woman Is NOT Unidentified -- Scam Post Uses Fake Story, Repurposed Photo To Garner Shares

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Hospitalized Woman Is NOT Unidentified -- Scam Post Uses Fake Story, Repurposed Photo To Garner Shares Scam Post

Was an unidentified young woman robbed, stabbed, and left for dead by the side of the road, and will sharing a post on social media help to identify her? No, that's not true: This post is a fabrication designed to trick people to share the post within their local community. The photo, which appeared in several news articles, actually shows a young woman who survived a serious car accident on May 22, 2016, in Utah. The woman was identified by name in news reports about the accident.

The post (archived here) was made in the public Facebook group "Grant, Crawford, Richland, Iowa county WI Buy/Sell/Trade" by the Facebook page David D. Fedor. It was captioned:

We urgently need assistance in identifying a young woman who was robbed, stabbed, and left for dead by the side of the road in Crawford
She is currently in a coma, and the deputies are unable to identify her because she is missing her ID. Let's bump this post so it may reach people who can be able to identify her.πŸ™πŸ™

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Dec 26 15:51:46 2023 UTC)

A reverse image search using Google Lens shows the photo in news articles from 2016 (archived here) . For example, it was included in a May 26, 2016, article from The Spectrum titled, "Teen critically injured in crash remains in coma, improving little by little" (archived here). Not only did this happen over seven years ago, the teen's injuries were not caused by being stabbed during a robbery. The Spectrum wrote:

Taylor Carlton, a high school student who was critically injured in a Sunday car crash, is healing well from her exterior injuries but still remains in a coma.

The bottom margin of the post (pictured above) contains a notification that the page David D. Fedor has turned off commenting for this post. Typically commenting helps to raise a post's visibility on Facebook, so it seems counterintuitive that someone seeking shares would limit commenting. This was presumably done to prevent group members from warning others in the group that the post is a scam.

Real Estate scam posts

These posts are a tactic used on Facebook by spammers that employ "bait and switch" content to lure people into a scam. A post's creator will pair an alarming or heart-wrenching claim with a compelling image to catch people's attention -- missing children or aging adults, injured animals, injured people in hospital beds and sex trafficking tactics -- and drive engagement.

Once a post has garnered sufficient attention, the content switches to push a deceptive real estate advertisement. The wording and images of these eye-catching posts, typically seen on local Facebook "yard sale" pages," are frequently identical, even when the offered property is located in different cities, regions of the U.S., or countries.

The content switch is clearly documented by a post's edit history, which also notes additions or deletions of content. In some instances, time stamps on the posts indicate when the switches were made but on some posts, timestamps don't change even though the content does.

Commonly, such posts use links that lead to landing pages with disclaimers or false promises and contact information requests that can be used to gather personal data, including financial information, from people who follow the trails.

Some links purport to connect people to a U.S. Housing and Urban Development site to help them search for deals on foreclosed homes. Lead Stories found the links lead to new sites that carry disclosures at the bottom of the page that note they are "not affiliated with, endorsed, authorized, or approved by the Federal Government or the US Department of Housing and Urban Development."

The image below shows the edit history of a December 25, 2023, bait post (archived here) in the Snohomish County Small Business group which has already been switched from the unidentified woman narrative to a real estate scam post -- it now links to viewhudforeclosure625.godaddysites.com.


(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Dec 26 17:31:09 2023 UTC)

Several Versions Circulating

Lead Stories conducted a Facebook search with a portion of the post's caption, "We urgently need assistance in identifying a young woman who was robbed, stabbed, and left for dead by the side of the road." Omitting the name of the town -- as those are changed according to the Facebook group where the posts are planted -- brought up scores of posts.

The Lead Stories composite image below shows three posts in local groups; all of the posts have the commenting turned off. The center post, which appeared in a Richmond, Indiana "Next Door Neighborhood Group" on December 25, 2023, repeats the false story that this supposedly unidentified woman was found left for dead. A reverse image search found this photo in a July 2023 Daily Mail article about Jesse Wynter, a Love Island contestant whose drink was spiked in Chicago. The photo was also posted on Wynter's Instagram account on June 20, 2023. She wrote:

I'm so grateful to have been around so many supportive people who got me safely to hospital.

It was so scary, in the hospital there were other girls arriving in the exact same condition I was in and the nurses said we had all tested with the same thing in our system.

(Image source: Lead Stories composite image using Facebook screenshots taken on Tue Dec 26 16:43:17 2023 UTC)

Another photo posted with the same false caption (above right) appeared in the public "Memphis Buy, Sell, Trade" group on December 26, 2023, claiming that the unidentified woman was found on the side of the road in Memphis. A reverse image search found this photo in a January 15, 2016, article from Self titled, "A Young Woman Shared A Shocking Photo Of Herself To Raise Awareness About Binge Drinking". Again the reality of the young woman's story had nothing to do with being stabbed during a robbery. The article opens:

Six months ago, Hanna Lottritz planned on having a fun day out with friends at a music festival. She blacked out before midnight, and woke up in the hospital--to find that she had been in an alcohol-induced coma for two days. Lottritz, who turned 21 earlier this month, wrote a poignant blog post sharing her story.

Lead Stories has debunked many of these bait and switch scam posts that use a variety of narratives, from dangerous fugitives or catalytic converter thieves, to missing kids and rattlesnakes. These posts aim to manipulate people to share the post, which will later be edited.

Want to inform others about the accuracy of this story?

See who is sharing it (it might even be your friends...) and leave the link in the comments.:

  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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