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Black Van Child Abduction Alert - Number Plate Ending With 03A

Abduction alert message circulating via social media warns that the driver of a black van with a number plate ending in 03A is trying to lure children into his vehicle by telling them they have won an iPod.

Brief Analysis
The warning is apparently derived from earlier alerts about a series of abduction incidents that took place in the Illawarra area of NSW, Australia in May and June 2011. However, the message in its current form is potentially misleading. (Please read the detailed analysis below for more information.)

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

Last updated: 8th June 2011
First published: 8th June 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer

ATTENTION ALL PARENTS..... The black van trying to pick children up that is getting around schools...was in oak flats this morning trying again.... Please warn ur children he is telling them they have won a iPod and take them back to the car to collect it... The end of his number plate is 03A.... PLEASE WARN UR CHILDREN.... every morning..... Spread the word or copy and paste this to ur page....ASAP!!!

Black Van Child Abduction Alert

Detailed Analysis
This message, which is circulating rapidly via Facebook, Twitter and other social media, warns users that the driver of a black van is trying to abduct children from around schools by telling them they have won an iPod. According to the message, the van was seen in the Oak Flats area and has a number plate ending with the characters 03A.

The warning is apparently derived from reports of several child abduction attempts that have taken place in the Illawarra area of New South Wales, Australia during May and June 2011. A May 20 report in the Illawarra Mercury notes:
About 4.20pm on Wednesday, a 12-year-old boy riding a bike along College Ave, Blackbutt, was approached by a man driving a black van.

The child told police a man tried to lure him into the van, but the boy ignored his advances and continued riding his bike.

He then sought help from a female motorist, who drove him home. The van is described as being an early 1990s model black Ford Econovan with rear seats and windows and a rust patch on the front door.

The driver is described as being about 35 years old, tall, of medium build with olive skin and short black hair.
A May 25th report on the Prime7 News Wollongong website describes another abduction involving a van:
Police are hunting for a man who attempted to abduct a 13-year-old boy in the Illawarra.

According to police, the man tried to lure the boy into a white van on Robert Street in Dapto at 11.30am on Tuesday.
The Illawarra Mercury reports that there have been several abduction attempts in the region recently, two of which involved a black van. A June 3rd Illawarra Mercury article describes the latest such incident:
A 14-year-old girl was followed by a male driving a van at Flinders yesterday, the latest in a string of similar incidents.

Police said the girl was walking home along Jindabyne Rd about 3.15pm when she saw a white van slowing down beside her.

The van followed the girl as she turned into Malacoota Wy before she then ran and hid in some bushes beside Burrinjuck Ave.

She told police the white van was being driven by a man aged between 40 and 50 and stopped at the side of the road for 10 to 15 minutes before finally leaving.
A June 3rd NSW Police Media Release also describes the attempted abduction of the 14 year old girl and notes that:
Strikeforce Saxby has been established to investigate similar incidents that have allegedly occurred across the Illawarra in recent weeks.
Thus, the advice in the message to warn children is certainly valid for people in the Illawarra region.

However, the version of the message currently circulating is potentially misleading. Most importantly, not all of the abduction attempts have involved black vans as suggested in the alert message. Some, including the June 3rd attempt, involved a man driving a white van rather than a black van.

And none of the reports I have seen about these incidents mention an iPod being used as a lure, nor do they mention a number plate with the characters "03A". Moreover, police do not believe that all of the incidents are related.

Another problem with this warning in its current form is that it does not contain any detailed information about where or when the incidents took place. Given the nature of social media, such messages can very quickly spread around the globe and are therefore seen by many people who are far away from where the incidents described took place. Thus, specifying only a place name such as "oak flats" is not always enough for people to identify the correct area. There are often several towns, cities or regions around the world that share the same name. Moreover, the message specifies only "this morning" as the time when the van was supposedly spotted. The lack of an actual date in the message means that it may continue to circulate fruitlessly around the world for months or years as other such alerts have done.

People in the Illawarra region should certainly be extra vigilant at this time. Police have advised parents to discuss the possible dangers with their children. However, it is very important that any alerts about the incidents that you pass on contain accurate, up-to-date and verifiable information that includes exact location details and dates. Warnings that do not contain this information are potentially misleading and counterproductive

If you have any information about these incidents, please contact detectives at Lake Illawarra Local Area Command via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Two other versions of the alert messages that are currently circulating:
do yous know anything about the black van driving around the illawarra area trying to pick up children. apparently they are telling the children that they have won an iPod and getting them to the car to collect it... my mate watched him go past in the van turn back around cause of the Police and drive past again in a red Volvo. and the last three characters to the black van are 03A. the black van is a 1990's Model Black FORD ECONOVAN & has alil rust on the front door! and apparently he live in figtree.

A black van in Shellharbour area was trying to pick up kids by telling them they've won an iPod this morning.

Bookmark and Share References
Police warnings after abduction attempts
Attempted child abduction in Dapto
Fifth child approached in stranger danger scare
Teenage girl followed – Illawarra
Police urge parents to reinforce “Safe People, Safe Places” messages with children

Last updated: 8th June 2011
First published: 8th June 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer