Fact Check: 'Walter Jones' And Dog 'Cami' Are NOT Missing -- False Social Media Post Is A Ruse For Sharing A Scam

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: 'Walter Jones' And Dog 'Cami' Are NOT Missing -- False Social Media Post Is A Ruse For Sharing A Scam Bait & Switch

Did 78-year-old Walter Jones never return home after driving out with his dog Cami? No, that's not true: The man in a photo on a social media post is not Walter Jones but the chief surgeon of a veterinary hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine. The false narrative is part of a scam that inspires concerned people to share a post which will then be edited to have a different message.

The post (archived here) was published in the group "Corpus Christi TX Buy Sell Trade" on Facebook on June 9, 2024. The post was captioned:

Our Dad, Walter Jones aged 78 drove out last night with his dog Cami and he still hasn't returned. He was last seen in #Corpus christi.He doesn't know where he's going, he has chronic memory loss. There is a silver alert activated on him. Please help bump this post so we can get him home safely🙏🏻

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


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jun 12 14:13:42 2024 UTC)

This bait-and-switch ruse, with a variety of narratives, has been circulating on Facebook since 2022. The posts seeded into local Facebook groups are edited to have the name of a nearby place. In this case the post in a Texas group says that Walter Jones went missing from Corpus Christi, but other examples of the post have identical photos and captions with the towns of Ravenna, Ohio; Madison, Indiana; Tulare County, California and Invergordon, Scotland, substituted. In every case, the commenting on the post was turned off (pictured above) to prevent people from warning the unsuspecting that the post was fake.

After the post has garnered many shares, it will be edited to become something else. The three dots in the upper right-hand corner of a post will drop down the menu that shows the edit history. The screenshot pictured below shows the post from the Ravenna, Ohio, group, which has been edited to become an ad for a rent-to-own home. The text of the too-good-to-be-true ad reads:

Rent to Own Home
3-bedrooms, 2-Bath rooms, Recently painted house with new appliances and upgrades! ready for a new owner.
-Located near shopping center
-Parking Space Available!
- All Pets allowed
For more information kindly visit >>> https://cutt.ly/aeor4amG
and fill in the application to set an appointment!


(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jun 12 16:29:49 2024 UTC)

This rent-to-own ad is also a false ruse. The house in the photo (pictured above) is not located in Ravenna, Ohio. A reverse image search with Google Lens (archived here) returned a listing in Jacksonville, Florida, on several rental websites including hotpads.com. Although no longer on the market, the $1,510 a month rent listed is more than twice the amount in the fake ad -- just a deceptive way to get people to click on the shortened link which redirects to https://usrent2ownclub.godaddysites.com. This link does not connect the user to the advertised home, but a paid subscription service "club" collecting personal information promising to help find similar homes in your area. More details about how this, and other, rent-to-own scams may operate are featured in a realtor's blog post entitled, "I Fell For An Online Rent-To-Own Scam (So You Don't Have To)."

The barely-built GoDaddy website usrent2ownclub.godaddysites.com does not even have the terms and conditions posted, and instead shows the GoDaddy template (archived here) explaining how to flesh out the website:

Your Terms and Conditions section is like a contract between you and your customers. You make information and services available to your customers, and your customers must follow your rules.

A reverse image search for the photo used in the Walter Jones bait and switch post yielded one result with the Russian platform Yandex. The man with the German shepherd is Pavel Pulnyashenko. This photo appeared in a 2012 profile in a Moscow-based trade magazine VetPharma. Pulnyashenko is an author and the chief veterinary surgeon of the practice Fauna Service, in Kyiv, Ukraine.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image with vetpharma.org screenshots taken on Wed Jun 12 17:56:17 2024 UTC)

Additional Lead Stories fact checks on a variety of narratives that have been used in bait and switch scams can be found here.

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  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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