Sarah Allen was shocked when she noticed that a photo of her toddler had gone viral for the wrong reason.
An image of her two-year-old son Jasper, who had a bad case of the chickenpox, have been used all over Facebook with an accompanying message saying he has cancer, BBC News reports.
The message states that Facebook would donate money for the young boy’s surgery — and since Feb. 1, it has received more than a million likes, comments and shares.
The post reads, “This little baby has cancer and he need money for surgery. Facebook has decided to help by giving. 1 Like = 2 dollars. 1 Comment = 4 dollars. 1 Share = 8 dollars. Please don’t scroll down without typing Amen.”
This is not the only Facebook post claiming that the company will donate money. According to Mic, if you use Facebook’s search tool to look up the phrasing in that viral photo, you’ll find quite a few scams.
Though it doesn’t seem like it is very dangerous or invasive, it could ultimately cause trouble for the good-natured people liking, commenting and sharing on such posts.
Security blogger Graham Cluley told BBC News that this could be a “link farming” scheme where getting users to interact with a post allows the scammers direct access to them.
“There are a lot of scams that use these kind of emotional images — oftentimes it’s done to make money,” the blogger BBC News. “They may later post something that claims you’ve won a prize and try and get you to enter your mobile phone number and then sign you up for a premium rate service, or ask for other personal information.”
Allen, a 36-year-old mother of two, thinks her son’s photos were taken from articles after she was interviewed in August for her initiative to make chickenpox vaccines free.
Jasper was turned away by a doctor’s receptionist for not having a severe enough case of chickenpox to be treated — and later, he was hospitalized for five days.
“We were warned people might take his pictures … because if you Google chickenpox his pictures are there,” Allen told the BBC. “So, we were well aware that might happen, but not in this respect, to say he had cancer.”
The mother reported the images to Facebook 30 times — and on Feb. 10, she was told one of the accounts that posted the photo had been removed. Just 24 hours later, it appeared again.
Allen said that Jasper’s photo is just one of roughly 100 images on the account claiming the subject of the photo has cancer.
“Facebook needs to make the reporting process better and take things like this down straight away,” she told the Mirror. “You can’t even have a breastfeeding photograph on Facebook without it being taken down, but somehow this is fine?”
After additional complaints from multiple organizations, Facebook deleted some of the accounts that posted the photo — but it’s fairly easy to find more if you search.