Missing Person Hoaxes on Social Media
There are lots of different hoaxes on the web and none are more prevalent than missing person hoaxes on social media. Well-minded people see a missing person and share it without realizing they are sharing a hoax and it continues around social media for months if not years.
With the change of Facebook’s algorithm, I am seeing more and more old posts from years back resurface and get new life as a recent post. This can happen because many people don’t look at the date of the post, and notice that it could be years old. Because of that very old hoaxes that had long died are resurfacing again.
Ashley Flores – 13-year-old Ashley Flores missing information first appeared on social media in 2006. It reappeared in 2009 with an updated version of the 2006 post. In this version the Rolla, Missouri police department’s phone number was added. So many concerned citizens called the number the police department had to change their phone number. You would think that by now the Ashley Flores hoax would be a memory, but research shows me there are still posts circulating as of yesterday.
Kitty Collins – The DeKalb Police Dept. put up a warning regarding the post for missing Kitty Collins. Please note different photos have been used. Evidently, it was not just a hoax but it was also a virus. “We do not have a report of a Kitty Collins missing from this department. “Kitty Collins” also appears to be a missing person in other communities that have different pictures attached to her name,” said the DeKalb PD. She has also been posted as missing from Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Zachariah Furio – Way before advocates and organization began Facebook pages, missing person posters were largely made up by family members resulting in a lot of variance in the style of the poster, like this one from 2009. It is unlikely that Zachariah’s poster who is a made up person, would get far on social media now days.
Evan Trembley – Straight out of Texas is a plea to find missing 15-year-old Evan Trembley in 2007. We know it comes from there as Evan Trembley was the one that began the hoax. Evan admitted to creating it as a practical joke for his friends. It wasn’t long before it covered social media, ebbed some and then reappeared again as Evan being from Australia and not Texas.
Penny Brown – Penny Brown may be America’s best-known non-existent missing child. The email states that Penny Brown is a missing 9-year-old child from an unspecified place, and seems to have begun around 2001. It seems that the Penny Brown hoax died out around 2015 and is no longer circulating social media, but you never know if it may one day, or a variation of it, might show up again.
Amber Alert.gov actually put together not only a list of hoaxes but a list of names of missing persons that have been found and their info continues to reappear on social media:
- Penny Brown (hoax)
- Nicholas Farber (safely recovered)
- Ashley Flores (hoax)
- Briana Hennigan (safely recovered)
- Shawn Horbeck (safely recovered)
- Kelsey Brooke Jones (safely recovered)
- Jessica Koopmans (found deceased)
- Christopher John Mineo (hoax)
- Andrea Montoya (safely recovered)
- Ashlyn Starkies (safely recovered)
- Krystava Patients Schmidt (safely recovered)
- Yohana Ravelo (hoax)
- Rachel Smith (found deceased)
- Raechelle Smith (still missing)
- Jewel Mahavia Strong (presumed deceased)
- Evan Trembly (hoax)
- Danielle Van Dam (found deceased)