Thursday, August 18, 2011

Urban legend circulating

One of the downsides of the Internet and email has been the rapidity with which unfounded rumors and urban legends spread.  Within the past ten days, three people have forwarded this email to me.  It is always passed on by a credible person who is familiar with this situation right here in Lincoln!

“This message is or any lady who goes to work, college or school or even driving or walking the streets alone.  If you find a young person crying on the road showing you their address and is asking you to take them to that address... Take that child  to the POLICE STATION!!  No matter what you do, DON'T go to that  address.  This is a new way for gang members (MS13) to rape women.   Please forward this message to all ladies & guys so that they can inform  their sisters & friends and family.  Please don't feel shy to forward this message.  Thank you!”

I have told all the correspondents that this is a urban legend and has no credence whatsoever.  Not that it’s entirely bad advice, however.  Better yet, though, why not just call the police?

Not the first urban legend I’ve dealt with on the Director’s Desk, and sometimes an email circulates that has all the appearances of an urban legend, but is actually quite true.  When I see something fishy like this, I generally search snopes.com with a few keywords, like:  child | crying | gang | rape. It is amazing how often the story is not only the same, but even the wording is nearly identical to something that first popped up on the web years ago. 

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The tip off to me is the word "lady." Most people today refer to women as, well, women. Or females. Also, the "typo" in the first sentence is a dead giveaway that this is just a spammish hoax.

Mike Burda said...

I have often notified people that what they were forwarding was simply a hoax. I would use Snopes.com to alert people to the origin of the story.
I noticed that people would stop sending these urban legends. I assumed that the sender's behavior had changed. However, what I discovered is that they stopped sending to me ;-).

As for the "take them to the police station", I believe that the UL started well before cell phones were common. The person forwarding this may have updated the gang reference to MS13 for currency but left the other elements of the UL alone.

Steve said...

Like Mike Burda, I've found that informing people that some of the things they forward on to others (even though their intentions are good) are simply hoaxes and seldom have any truth to them. I told them, that before they forward anything like that, they should check it out for validity, and I told them how they could do that with little effort. Most of them, including my mother, simply quit forwarding things to me altogether. People don't like it when they find out they've been duped, and they often take it out on the messenger.

Anonymous said...

I never forward anything sent to me by another party with all of the E-mail addresses left in the message. Copy & Paste the part you want to send on. This prevents scammers from collecting huge numbers of E-mail addresses. OUTLOOK E-mail programs have been especially vulnerable to this in the past.
Gun Nut

Patty Beeken said...

We also have had instances with missing child information passed on from person to person. No Law Enforcement agency listed no vital statistics just a picture. Please check snopes. The power of the internet is mighty and many want to help. We once called a local PD that one of these missing child flyers had been passed for several years only to be told yes the girl was missing but for only a few hours. However, we were also told that they actually had to hire someone to answer the phones for this case when ever one of those email campaigns went on because they would receive hundreds of phone calls. Not meant to slam anyone with those just please make sure that your information is from a creditable source and you have googled to see if the person is listed as missing.
Patty Beeken
General Manager Doenetwork
http://www.doenetwork.org

Anonymous said...

Your report is relavant to the NE area & glad to find it to pass on to those who sent me the "email" on M23.