September 23, 2022

Fraudulent messages claim girl was found in various US cities

The claim: Missing girl found in multiple US cities

Similar posts about a young girl have appeared in Facebook groups across the country.

The post shows a photo of a young girl in blue pajamas, drinking from a red cup. The caption usually reads, “Found this wandering girl behind our apartment today. … Please help me find her parents.”

Versions of the claim have been posted to more than two dozen Facebook groups.

Various posts say she is in Springfield, Missouri; Rome, Georgia; Dover, Delaware and Port Richey, Florida. The story has also appeared in Canadian bands.

The posts amassed hundreds of shares within days. But there is no evidence that such a situation occurred.

Police departments in the cities where the messages circulated told USA TODAY that the message was illegitimate or that they had not received a report of a missing minor matching the description of the child in the message.

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USA TODAY contacted several social media users who shared the posts for comment.

Police services confirm there is no truth to the messages

The story of the found girl is part of a social media phenomenon in which users post the same eye-catching event in reference to multiple cities.

USA TODAY has debunked other examples, including the claim that a man with a knife was going door to door, someone abandoned a baby on the doorstep and a woman stole a baby. In a hospital.

Officials say there is no truth to the latest claim either.

Greenville Police Department Sgt. Johnathan Bragg told USA TODAY that the department has not received any recent reports of a found child. A post about the missing girl in pajamas was shared in Greenville but has since been deleted.

Deputy Chief Debbie Burnett of the Rome Police Department said in an emailed statement: “From what we can find, this is not legit.”

Port Richey Police Department Chief of Police Cyrus Robinson told USA TODAY that no incidents fitting the job description have occurred in Port Richey.

Ryan SchmidDover Police Department public information officer, said the department had no reports of a found or missing child matching the station.

KY3, a local news station in Springfield, Missouri, debunked the posts after the allegation of a found child appeared in local yard sale groups. The station warned people that the posts were “phishing attempts” and that the user was typically trying to solicit people’s bank account information.

Cris Swaters, the Springfield Police Department’s public affairs officer, said in an emailed statement that his department has not received any reports of a found child and currently has no cases. missing child.

Fact check: Chain of messages about knife-wielding man door-to-door is a hoax

USA TODAY found several instances in which the user created the Facebook account on the same day the post was shared, a common feature of spam accounts.

USA TODAY was unable to confirm the origin of the image displayed in the fraudulent messages.

Our opinion: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that a girl searching for her parents has been found in multiple US cities FALSE. Several police departments said there was no truth to this claim and there was no credible evidence to show the claim was true.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Johnathan Bragg, August 18, phone interview with USA TODAY
  • Debbie Burnett, August 18, email interview with USA TODAY
  • Cris Swaters, August 18, email interview with USA TODAY
  • Cyrus Robinson, August 24, email interview with USA TODAY
  • Ryan SchmidAugust 24, telephone interview with USA TODAY
  • KY3, Aug 15, On Your Side: Missing Child Alert Scam
  • Facebook search for “wondering girl”, accessed August 19
  • USA TODAY, August 11, fact check: Chain post about knife-wielding man knocking door to door is a hoax
  • USA TODAY, August 2, fact check: Abandoned newborn baby in Mesa, Arizona sparks string of misrepresentations in other cities
  • USA TODAY, July 19 Fact Check: Image shows baby kidnapped in the Philippines in 2016, not recent incident in the US

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Our fact-checking work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.