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Penny Brown Hoax

Email claims that 9-year-old Penny Brown is missing and urges you to forward the message to others.

False - No child named Penny Brown is missing

Example:(Submitted via email, October, 2004)
Subject: amber alert penny brown

please look at the picture, read what her father says, then forward his message on.

Maybe if every one passes this on someone will see this child, that is how the girl from Stevens Point was found by circulation of her picture on tv. The internet circulates even overseas South America, and Canada etc. Thanks

Please pass this to everyone in your address book.

We have a store manager (Wal-Mart) from Longs, SC who has a 9 year old daughter who has been missing for 2 weeks. Keep the picture moving on. With luck on her side she will be found.

I am asking you all, begging you to please forward this email on to anyone and everyone you know, PLEASE. My 9 year old girl, Penny Brown, is missing. She has been missing for now two weeks.. It is still not too late. Please help us. If anyone anywhere knows anything, please contact me at: [EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED] I am including a picture of her.V All prayers are appreciated!!

It only takes 2 seconds to forward this on. If it was your child, you would want all the help you could get.

"Penny Brown", the child described in this hoax email, is not missing, nor is she the subject of an Amber Alert. The hoax has been circulating since 2001 and shows no sign of abating. Unfortunately, many concerned recipients are still forwarding this email in the mistaken believe that the information it contains is true.

According to information about this hoax on the Code Amber website, "There is no evidence with any missing persons organization or law enforcement agency about a girl of this age and identity."

Another strong indication that the message is a hoax is that there have been several versions, each with conflicting information about the parents and place of residence of the missing child. Even young Penny's nationality appears to be fluid. In the version above, Penny is apparently from Longs, South Carolina and the email appeal is from her store manager father. Another version claims to be from an Office Administrator at a Canadian University. The person named is real but she does not have a missing child. In fact, like many others, she was tricked into forwarding the hoax and inadvertently added her email signature to the messages. She has since been inundated with calls and faxes inquiring after Penny Brown. Yet another variant was set in Australia.

Also, the email does not include a date specifying when the child actually went missing. Penny has been 9 years old and "missing for two weeks" for several years now.

The imbecile who first launched this hoax must be a particularly callous and uncaring individual. It sickens me that some person could be so mean spirited as to write and launch a hoax about a fictional missing child in a world where so many real children have disappeared. Hoaxes like this one are not harmless. They weaken the power of email and the Internet as a tool for disseminating information about genuine missing person cases. In this particular instance the perpetrator undermines the good work carried out by the real Code Amber website.

Unfortunately, this hoax has spawned a number of variants since it first began circulating. From time to time, some foolish prankster will alter details such as the name and location of the supposed missing child and tack on a new picture before relaunching the hoax anew. Often, these new versions are the work of naive teenagers who fail to realize just how far such a prank email will spread. In 2006, friends of then teenager Ashley Flores modified a version of the Penny Brown email to make it appear that Ashley was missing and sent it to people on their contact list. Although Ashely was never missing, the fake message, along with her photograph soon spread via email and social networking to all parts of the world and still continues to circulate. Then, in 2007 15 year old Evan Trembley sent out a modified version that again closely mirrored the original Penny Brown hoax. This version of the hoax falsely claimed that Evan himself was missing. Although Evan only intended his little "joke" to reach a limited circle of friends, it soon spread all over the world and continues to hit inboxes to this day.

Be sure to verify any missing child emails that you receive before forwarding them to others.

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Code Amber - Penny Brown hoax
Code Amber website
Missing Child Hoaxes
Ashley Flores Missing Child Hoax
Evan Trembley Missing Child Hoax

Last updated: 25th November 2009
First published: October 2004

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen