Missing Child Emails Grab the Heart

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Polly Klaas® Foundation provides a profile of Internet-hoax-missing-child-emails, and ways to verify validity.

In your email box is a title that grabs your heart: “9-year-old Penny Brown is missing.” There is a photo of a sweetheart of a girl, and a gripping appeal for help, pleading with you to pass this email and photo on to everyone in your address book.

A caring person’s natural instinct is to help any way they can.

Before you hit send to forward the email to your contact list, take a minute to find out whether the missing child information is valid. There are many Internet hoaxes, especially missing child emails. The Penny Brown hoax has been circulating the Internet since September, 2001.

The Polly Klaas® Foundation, http://www.pollyklaas.org , which helps find missing children, is often contacted about these missing child emails. They have developed the following profile of a missing-child-email-hoax:

  • Circulating for a lengthy amount of time.
  • No direct contact information, particularly law enforcement contact information.
  • No common missing child descriptive information:
  • Where did the child go missing from?
  • When did the child go missing?
  • Physical description of the child?
  • No clear way to verify information with law enforcement or a reputable child find agency.
  • Asks recipient to forward the information “to everyone you know.”

To verify whether a particular missing child email is a hoax, the Polly Klaas® Foundation offers these resources:

  • There are several websites that can help verify if a missing child email is a hoax. Two of the more prominent are:
  • http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/
  • http://www.snopes.com
  • Contact the law enforcement agency in the city from which the child allegedly went missing.
  • Contact the Polly Klaas® Foundation and ask if the child is registered as a missing person, http://www.PollyKlaas.org or 800-587-4357.

It is not known how many Internet-hoax-missing-child-emails are circulating. However, as Hoaxbusters points out, the hoax messages often multiply at an alarming rate. For instance, if a caring person passes the hoax on to 10 people, who then pass it on to ten more people, then 100 more messages have been generated in very little time. If this keeps up for 4 or more rounds of forwarding, then up to a million messages will have been sent.

The Polly Klaas® Foundation suggests caring people take care not to forward missing child emails if there are any doubts regarding the validity of the missing child report.

About the Polly Klaas® Foundation

Founded in 1993 following the abduction and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, the Polly Klaas® Foundation is a national nonprofit that helps find missing children, prevents them from going missing in the first place and promotes laws like Amber Alert that help keep children safe. The Foundation has eVolunteers who distribute posters of missing children in their communities http://www.pollyklaas.org/evolunteer/, and provides abduction prevention information to parents with its highly respected Child Safety Kit http://ga0.org/campaign/PKF_website_child_safety_kit, and its forthcoming Internet Safety Kit http://ga0.org/campaign/internet_safety_kit.

*Marc Klaas is not associated with the Polly Klaas® Foundation.*


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