Sometimes you'll receive a message via email, or perhaps in your Facebook newsfeed, and it will seem pretty alarming. It's hard to verify if it's true, but you think maybe it's better to be safe than sorry so you'd better share it.
And if enough people think the same thing then eventually that message goes viral, true or not.
Which is what seems to have happened with a recent "dog fighting gang" warning.
It appears to have started in Perth of all places, and ended up all around the world.
There is a warning message stating that gang members are taking dogs of all sizes and breeds to be used as bait at dog fighting events. The messages also warn that gang members are marking properties that have suitable dogs with coloured stickers so that they can come back later and steal the animals. Supposedly, red stickers are for large dogs, yellow for medium sized dogs and pink for small dogs.
The thought of having your family's favourite friend stolen and basically fed to a vicious pit bull is enough to make most people hit the "share" button on Facebook. But unfortunately after the recent storms where several dogs went missing (as often happens during a storm) lots of people were quite distraught fearing the worst.
There appears to be no truth at all to these posts, and the nature of social media means it's rather tricky to find who started the whole thing.
But if you see something like this on Facebook and get alarmed, spend a few moments doing a Google search (or Bing if you like) to see if it's a known hoax.
So if you've seen those posts getting around, rest assured they're fake. There's no known gang activity of the like happening.
Still, it's worth remembering to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary in your neighbourhood. Potential burglars will often scope out a home to see if there is indeed a dog in the back yard, so please report any suspicious activity to the local police.
You may also like to join this local Geraldton Neighbourhood Watch Facebook group to stay up to date on matters happening in your area. : facebook.com/groups/geraldton
You can read more about the the fake messages here: http://www.snopes.com/crime/warnings/dogstickers.asp
or here: http://www.hoax-slayer.com/perth-dog-fighting-ring-hoax.shtml