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Fake Child Abduction Alert - Three Year Old Missing from Wollongong

Outline
Alert circulating via social media and email claims that a three year old girl was kidnapped in the NSW city of Wollongong by someone driving a white van with a ladder on the back.



Brief Analysis
The alert is a hoax and should not be reposted. There are no reports of an abduction like the one described in the message in the Wollongong area or elsewhere in NSW. NSW police have confirmed that the claims in the message are untrue. The alert appears to be a false and mutated version of a message pertaining to a three year old missing from the town of Senath, Missouri. Although the Senath version of the message was derived from a real case, the child's body has now been found and a man has been charged with her murder. Thus, the continued circulation of the Senath version is no longer necessary.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

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Last updated: 18th August 2011
First published: 18th August 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
AMBER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!

A little 3 yr old girl has been missing since 11:00am yesterday morning in WOLLONGONG an she was seen in an older model white van. No make or model or license plate yet. But the van has a ladder on the back going to the top of the van. Put this as your status, it could save her. The kidnapping is recent so do it, 3 seconds wont kill you!!! But it might save her life.






Detailed Analysis
According to this "alert" that is currently circulating very rapidly via Facebook, Twitter and email, a three year old girl has been recently abducted from Wollongong, a city in NSW, Australia. The message claims that the child was kidnapped by someone driving an older model white van with a ladder going up the back. It asks that people repost the information in the hope that the child's life can be saved. Some versions claim that the message is an "Amber Alert".

However, the alert is a hoax and certainly should not be reposted. NSW Police have investigated the claims and found no current reports about such a kidnapping in the Wollongong area. A recent post on the NSW Police Force Facebook page notes:
As previously stated, we have checked with local police and there are no reports of abducted children in the Wollongong area. Also, the NSW Police Force does not issue 'amber alerts'. Instead we issue 'child abduction' or 'concern for child' alerts, depending on the circumstances. No alerts have been issued this week.
Moreover, there are no credible news reports that describe such an abduction in the Wollongong area or elsewhere in NSW.

It seems apparent that the false "Wollongong" message was derived from a factual, US based version that claimed that a three year old was abducted from Senath Missouri:
AMBER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!! Senath Mo. A lil 3 year old girl has been missing since 11:00am this morning and she was seen in an older model white van. No make or model or license plate yet. But the van has a ladder on the back going to the top of the van. Put this as your status. It could save her. The kidnapping is recent so do it, 3 seconds will not kill you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But it might save her life.
The Missouri version was related to a real missing child report for three year old Breeann Rodriguez who went missing from her Senath home on August 6, 2011. Tragically, Breeann's body has now been found and a neighbour has been charged with her murder. The neighbour confessed to killing the child after he found her near his backyard pool. Early police and media reports about the missing child stated that authorities were looking for a white, "older model panel van with no windows, and a ladder on the back for roof access". It appears that someone has created the social media driven alert based on these police and media reports. And the original message has at some point mutated into the totally false "Woolongong" variant.

Unfortunately, although based on a real case, the original Senath Missouri version used phrasing strongly reminiscent of a long running series of "Amber Alert" hoax messages that have been set in various locations in the United States and Canada. Versions of these "Amber Alert" hoaxes have been circulating since at least 2009. Both the Senath alert and many of the hoaxes include the phrase "the kidnapping is recent so do it, 3 seconds wont kill you!" along with other similarities. These similarities, along with the breathless style of the alert and a lack of any verifiable details about the case have caused many recipients to dismiss even the factual Senath version as just another in the Amber Alert hoax series.

So, to summarize, the Wollongong version of this message is false and should not be circulated. Moreover, although the Senath version of the message was derived from a real case, the child's body has now been found and a man has been charged, so the continued circulation of the message is pointless and counterproductive.

Before reposting missing child or abduction alerts it is very important that recipient's check the validity of such messages. Circulating false or outdated messages wastes the precious time of police authorities who must investigate such false reports and field endless enquiries about them from concerned members of the public. And, as illustrated in this case, missing child hoaxes can lessen the value of real alerts.

PLEASE check and verify ALL missing child alerts via a reliable source BEFORE you repost them.

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References
NSW Police Force - Facebook
Police: Motive unclear in death of Mo. 3-year-old
New evidence found in missing Senath youth case
Amber Alert Hoax - Fake '72B 381' Abduction Alert Continues To Circulate



Last updated: 18th August 2011
First published: 18th August 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer