• Coronavirus badge

This Woman Says Her Photos Were Stolen In A Viral Post About The COVID-19 Death Of Her Uncle David. She Doesn’t Have An Uncle David.

A conspiracy theory about coronavirus death certificates is spreading like wildfire on social media.

BuzzFeed News has reporters across five continents bringing you trustworthy stories about the impact of the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

A woman called “Sara Faith” made an explosive claim about the circumstances of her Uncle David’s death in a Facebook post shared tens of thousands of times in recent days.

But Sara Faith does not exist.

The profile pictures used actually belong to a woman called Sarah-Louise Cooper from Manchester in England, BuzzFeed News can reveal.

“I don’t have an uncle called David,” she said.

The post, shared tens of thousands of times by the account, spread a growing conspiracy theory about medics manipulating death certificates to inflate coronavirus deaths.

The post was shared in Facebook groups dedicated to spreading baseless conspiracy theories about vaccines, Bill Gates, and the "plandemic".

Sarah-Louise Cooper said she found out her pictures were being used when a former colleague alerted her.

“Every single photo is mine,” she said. “It makes me laugh that people are that pathetic that they’ve got to use somebody else’s pictures.”

Cooper and several of her friends reported the account to Facebook.

The “Sara Faith” profile has now been removed, but not before the post was shared over 30,000 times.

BuzzFeed News messaged the account before it was removed but did not receive a response meaning it is impossible to know exactly who was behind it.

Similar claims of death certificates being manipulated to inflate the death toll can be found all over Facebook.

These are often weaved into conspiracy theories about governmental control and forced vaccinations.

The claims tend to be attributed to a friend or relative, often anonymous but sometimes named, as in the case of “Uncle David”.

This type of misinformation is particularly difficult for fact-checkers and social media companies to combat, because it is impossible to know the exact circumstances of every single death.

“When you don’t know who the source really is it makes it a lot harder to verify if it’s true or false,” says fact-checking site Full Fact. “If there isn’t a named source to the information, think twice before sharing it.”

But we do know that the woman in these photos says she does not have an uncle named David, and did not say the words that were attributed to her and shared tens of thousands of times.

BuzzFeed News verified Sarah-Louise Cooper's identity in a video call in which she showed her distinctive tattoos as well as a springer spaniel called Bailey, who features in one of the profile pictures used by the “Sara Faith” account.

Cooper said the photos in question were taken from an old Instagram profile, which she deleted when her photos were stolen and used for a fake Facebook profile three years ago.

That profile was deleted when she reported it on that occasion, and she thought the problem had gone away — until her former colleague alerted her to "Sara Faith".

"I have no words for this,” she said. “They clearly think I’m better-looking than them.”