Baby cancer and heart transplant hoaxes on Facebook

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Social networks, Spam

FacebookFacebook is a fertile breeding ground for hoaxes, spam and chain letters.

Users of the social network have to wade through a seemingly constant tide of messages shared by their well-meaning friends, making it hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Here's an example that is spreading across Facebook right now, claiming that Facebook will pay three cents for every "Share" to help a baby with facial cancer.

Baby cancer hoax on Facebook

This baby has cancer. For every share, FB donates 3 cents to help him.

I've even seen some Facebook users admit that they don't know if the story is true or not, but still urge their online friends to share it "just in case":

this child's got a cancer. facebook is ready to pay 3 cent for every share. we don't know is it true or not, but let's everybody share. maybe it's true and then... >SHARE< for this baby PLEASE SHARE, THANKS!

The message is, of course, a hoax. Facebook is not going to do anything of the sort and even if they were so minded, there's no information in the post providing any evidence that the story is true, or where in the world the child is.

As Hoax Slayer points out, the growth on the child's face is most likely a birthmark rather than something more serious.

Furthermore, Hoax Slayer adds, the image has been circulating across the internet for some years.

Here's another Facebook hoax that Naked Security readers have told us about today:

Heart transplant hoax on Facebook

If this 18-month-old girl picture gets 10000 shares her heart transplant is free.... please share!

As Steve Williamson explains on the Hoax Slayer website, the picture is of a baby called Zoe Chambers and her mother Julie:

"The caption on the circulating photograph claims that baby Zoe will receive a free heart transplant if the picture receives 1000 Facebook shares. However, this caption is a blatant lie. Zoe suffered from CHD (congenital heart disorder) and received a heart transplant operation in 2007. Sadly in July 2008 she passed away. Zoe's mother Julie is extremely upset by this cruel and totally unauthorised use of Zoe's picture."

We've seen similar hoaxes spreading on Facebook before, of course. Remember this little boy who allegedly only needed 100 shares to get his heart transplant? Clearly the "Facebook share -> heart transplant" exchange rate has got steeper in the last few months.

Please don't re-share chain letters like this on Facebook - you're just adding to the glut of spam messages on the social network, and by participating unintentionally encouraging your friends and family to follow bad practices online.

Instead, report the photograph to Facebook - maybe that will help them get a handle on the problem.

Facebook is rich enough that if it did ever want to pay for a child's medical treatment, they could afford to. They wouldn't resort to distasteful schemes which rely on users liking and re-sharing posts.

If a friend of yours shares a message with you like this on Facebook, remind them about the importance of not spreading chain letters and suggest that they inform all of their friends that they were mistaken (maybe they could link to this article if anybody needs convincing?).

Don't forget you should join the Sophos Facebook page, where we not only debunk hoaxes and chain letters, but we also keep you up-to-date on the latest rogue applications, scams and malware attacks threatening Facebook users.

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33 Responses to Baby cancer and heart transplant hoaxes on Facebook

  1. sallyw · 1025 days ago

    I I had a pound for every time I've had to warn friends about scams and hoaxes on FB I'd comfortably have enough for a decent holiday! Why do people still fall for these things? I am continually posting links for people to read, and advising them to subscribe to a page such as yours for information, or even just taking the time to Google it before passing it on, but still they persist!

    • grb · 1015 days ago

      What are they falling for? A post that gets people to pray for a maybe/maybe not sick kid"

      pfffff.... "I just hate I told you so type people!":

      Makes me more nervous giving these guys my emal address. Thats why the one I used is my spam email acct.

  2. Debie · 1025 days ago

    Thank you, I get tired of all the hoaxes. I'm glad you guys are around.

  3. Herman · 1025 days ago

    I am seeing these on my wall quite often, even though my FB does not have over 9000 friends. WHY do they believe something like that is happening?

  4. Mary B · 1025 days ago

    about time something is done with this trash.

  5. Shellie · 1025 days ago

    I wonder if the people featured in the pictures know about it

    • Tina · 1025 days ago

      The photo in this article of the heart transplant girl with her mom is a fellow heart mom and yes she knows all about this photo going around. The little girl Zoe sadly passed away in 2008 and the mom was heart broken to see her photo being used in this way! Those of us in the CHD community on Facebook got this photo removed by reporting it. I urge anyone seeing this type of stuff to report it ASAP. These sick people steal others photos and use them for their own gain and they need to be stopped!

    • Jill · 1024 days ago

      @ Shellie - I am the Auntie of the little girl in the photo above - her Mum is my sister. We discovered unscrupulous people sharing a "Copywrite" photo without permission on facebook and attempting to make money from it, so yes we are aware and as you can imagine are devastated and disgusted!! Zoe did have a heart transplant in 2007 but sadly passed away in 2008. So now not only do we have to live life without her we have to witness and endure sick twisted people pulling nasty stunts like this! I hope they get what they deserve.

      • Lisa Johnson · 1010 days ago

        I am devastated that people can be so heartless. So sorry for the loss of Zoe, you all must of been heart broken and can't believe that you have had to put up with this disgusting stunt. x

  6. Karoli · 1025 days ago

    I find this disgusting. Using poor babies for personal gain.

  7. roberta headly · 1025 days ago

    dirty rotten b....................ds how dare they do this im sickened by this news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Carol Zupkas · 1025 days ago

    I mark them as spam. The last one I received from two people who are not friends! How did they get the post on my wall?

  9. No one special · 1025 days ago

    I think all my Facebook friends has figured out that these are hoaxes. I have not found any of them posted on my wall in a long time. I like to think it's because i share Sophos post about these hoaxes. It could be too that any of my friends that still want to repost these hoaxes is removed from my friends list.

  10. Lori Hathaway · 1025 days ago

    I'm a new facebook user and had no idea that these kind of scams on facebook. So when someone posted(a very good and kind person) one on my site I would like to think that I'm a caring person amd if at all this could be true that I would want to help. I had no idea that there were scams like this on facebook, so I think that some of the other peoples comments on this and people who fall for it are way to harsh. I'm glad that YOU new but some of us didn't until now. I find it horrible that people on facebook would use little sick children like this I guess just as a joke. That was very appauling to me and now I'm glad to know about these scams. But before I knew about this seeing a little child like this and if there were any way that just sharing it would help, I would rather be safe and possibly help than not.

    • hello · 1024 days ago

      sorry i agree with you totaly but pressed thumbs dwn instead of up and it will not let me change it over i did the same as i thort it was true and it may help but thanks to this i have naw learnt my lesson the people that has all the bad words to say we may be stupid but we are stupid pepole that has feeling that made us do that sorry 4 careing

      • John · 1009 days ago

        It's nothing to do with eitehr caring or not caring - it's to do with common sense. And if you can't apply common sense (i.e /why/ would FB give 'x' cents per share rather than pay outright, if it were mionded to help at all) at least Google the story to check it out before passing it on.

    • Lori, I hope you have never, ever experienced the loss of a child. It is horrific. Adding insult to injury, someone "shares" this photo which causes the mother of the child and her family great distress. Saying that you did not know is a lame excuse. Your ignorance is hurting people. I don't care how caring or compassionate you say you are. If you truly care you will research the matter first.

  11. Zuckerfry · 1025 days ago

    It's just horrible to see, how many people also comment this picture with: "Aww, the poor baby", "God bless him", "Give his parents strength"
    They are all really believing it and think, they do something good.
    Like Facebook couldn't (if they wanted to) create a real campaign out of this. They have enough financial background to donate more then just 3 cent per like/share.

    I always try to warn and inform people through my comments below such pictures, but the posts spam in every second so that your post will be lost way down between all those "caring comments of Mr. Nice Guy".

    I'm really thinking about quitting Facebook again. Not because I fall for stuff like this but I can't endure the simple-mindedness of the majority of people out there anymore ..

  12. Argento · 1024 days ago

    Sadly we live in a very sick world. How can anybody use the photo of a deceased child to make money!.. My heart goes out to the parents who are suffering at the hands of these sick scammers.

  13. Oliver V · 1022 days ago

    I just saw this start up again, but instead of 3 cents it's now saying 1 dollar.

  14. jill leonard · 1021 days ago

    if this is a hoax about the baby who had a facial tumor that was cancerous,SHAME on you for trying to make a buck off of something as serious as cancer!!!And useing an innocent child to boot, double shame on you!! If you are that desperate for money it's called a JOB!!! Go get one!!!! Your deceitful ways will catch up to you...

  15. Cindy · 1021 days ago

    I so so sick of all the stupid people on Facebook! It doesn't matter how many times I share things like this, there is always somebody that's going to ignore and post this stuff anyway. I have "unfriended" several people that continually do it and will continue to do so.

  16. sickkid1972 · 1020 days ago

    Just seen the "baby cancer" story cross my twitter timeline as an RT claiming twitter will donate $1 for every RT it gets....

  17. Lori · 1019 days ago

    Just had a man get real mad at me when I posted the hoax - said he knew the mother and the baby and I shouldn't speak of things I know nothing about. The guy is a retired builder in a small town in Kentucky - he's clueless and didn't like anyone contradicting him. Bye bye - he's gone. It's one thing to be stupid - it's another thing to lie to cover up your stupidity.

  18. Jim · 1017 days ago

    In the years before facebook, one would receive a chain-mail about a young man who was dying, and wanted to set the Guiness record for receiving the most "good wishes" cards before he passed away. Years pass, and methods change, but some evil people never do.

    • ann · 942 days ago

      That was true, though. Craig Shergold, I believe. Look it up.

  19. Pierre · 1010 days ago

    Could someone EXPLAIN to me and others what is implicated in such a scam - is there money to be made with this type of thing and what do they collect as information and what they do with those infos from accounts? I live in Canada and i do get those in french language.

  20. karen · 1008 days ago

    Are animal ones hoaxes too? I just saw one earlier this week about dolphins in Denmark being slaughtered by teens just so they can show that they're men! And they're left to die slowly bleeding to death in a sea of blood! That's horrible! The post doesn't mention anything about raising money or anything, just to share it to spread the word about this cruelty. Do you know if this for real or not?

  21. Sonya Brockney · 1005 days ago

    As i just replied to a very good friends "post" of a very sick pic of a baby girl, i said i will not share or repost this, not only because i dont want to see it but if this were real, what kind of person, or at that PARENT would post such horrific pics of there sweet baby!! It made me cry to see those pics on the news feed,a nd i do not log on to face book to be sad or have those images in my head!! So please, lets get it out there, that this is not what people want to see!!! Now, on the same note, im not saying if someone we know's child is sick, and they are asking for help, then so be it, but PLEASE before you re post or share, KNOW where the info is coming from, otherwise you could be ruining someones day with a thought or image just like what happend to me today!! I truely love facebook,lets not taint it!!!

  22. Marie · 1002 days ago

    My 13 year old son somehow found the baby with cancer hoax. However, there were pictures of they child's genitalia. I have spent half the morning trying to figure out how to report this to Face Book, but their site keeps taking me in circles. I don't have an account and my son has unfrieded his dad. I did make my son delete the pictures from his page. But, he had already shard them with all of his friends because he believed he was helping. What can I do?

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.