Boycott Watch
May 26, 2006
Before You Pass Along "Missing Children" Emails, Consider This:
Summary: Do you really know who the information requester is? Most of these emails are not provable or traceable, and some may be sent out by people with bad intent, so the email may be a hoax or the person may have already been found years ago. In either case, you should think twice before forwarding such emails.
    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of report can reasonably be considered real, but one should at least check the date of the report because it may be outdated.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 numbers real?

   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.

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 ©2006 Boycott Watch