| More and more, emails about missing
persons are circulating, and people want to do the right thing so they pass the
emails along to their friends with the assumption that such emails must always
be true and with the intent of helping find someone in trouble. The problem,
however, is that without verification, we really do not know what we are
forwarding. Since such verification is difficult and time consuming, most
people won't verify the facts before forwarding such emails. Let's examine a
few email possibilities:
Scenario 1: An email
about a real missing person is sent out that is directly linked to a government
agency with a .gov website with detailed information, or the website of a TV
station covering the news story. This type of report can reasonably be
considered real, but one should at least check the date of the report because
it may be outdated.
Scenario 2: An email about
a real missing person is sent out with a photo, a link to dedicated website to
track the person, police contact information and a way to send in anonymous
sightings. This type of report plausibly real, but should be verified before
you take any action since we do no know who really posted the site. Is this a
fake website? Is it a fraternity prank? Could the contact be someone who has
denied parental contact by a court or has a restraining order? Are the phone
Scenario 3: As a joke, someone
creates a missing person email using a friend's photo and emails it. One
recipient did not realize who the person in the photo is, and forwards the
email to people who have no idea who the "missing person" is, and now the email
will circulate around the world indefinitely, interfering with real missing
person's reports and possibly real police work, thus preventing actual missing
persons to be found.
Scenario 4: A real
missing persons report is sent via email claiming a person is missing for two
weeks, but the email may not be dated and because there is no website to
confirm the email, the email circulates years after the person has been found.
Scenario 5: Someone may be fishing for
information to discover the whereabouts of someone who has ran away for their
own safety, or is perhaps under law enforcement protection, thus passing along
information to the sender may lead to serious bodily harm or even murder.
Those are just some of the possibilities to consider.
While there are few easily verifiable missing person report emails and many
more possibilities the emails are hoaxes or outdated, it is advisable not to
send out sighting information to any contact listed in the email. The contact
information listed may be that of a known felon. Any information you wish to
report about a missing person should only be given to bona fide law enforcement
personnel, and when doing so, always document the badge number of the officer
you spoke to. It is advisable to work with your local police department and
have them pass along the information, thus allowing the police to verify who is
receiving the information you have.