False kidnapping rumors spread online in US, Canada

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Social media posts shared in Facebook groups in the US and Canada claim a girl was nearly abducted while playing in her yard, sparking worried calls from parents to local authorities. But the rumors are false; police departments in both countries have refuted them.

"Child Abduction Attempt in Tehlequah," says a July 30, 2022 Facebook post shared in a buy-and-sell group for a town in the US state of Oklahoma.

The post, published by an account that appears to be based in Zimbabwe, includes a picture of a white truck driving through a suburban neighborhood.

"My 8 year old niece's friend was almost snatched from playing in her yard yesterday," the caption says. "A guy driving this truck with gray hair and glasses tried getting her to get in his truck. Luckily she ran inside and her parents reported it to the police. Their neighbors security camera caught the guys truck on film."

"If you recognize the truck or know this guy please contact the Police department. SPREAD THE WORD."

Other posts with similar text do not show the truck, but rather a picture of a young girl. 

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken August 19, 2022
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken August 19, 2022



But several police departments have said the near-abduction claim is false.

In the Canadian province of Ontario, where similar rumors circulated on Facebook, the South Simcoe Police Service called the rumor a "hoax" in an August 16, 2022 statement.

"The post regarding a child abduction attempt in Bradford is unfounded and has been sourced to a Facebook account that has made the same post in multiple cities in the United States," the statement said.

Similarly, police departments across the US have taken to social media to refute the claims.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken August 19, 2022
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken August 19, 2022



A reverse image search revealed the photo of the young girl stems from a stock photo website. AFP could find no other evidence to corroborate the tale shared online.

The posts are the latest in a series of false rumors originating in Zimbabwe and shared in local Facebook groups in the US. In many cases, the posts' comment sections were closed -- making it difficult for users to question the veracity of the claims.

For genuine warnings about missing and abducted children, check the verified social media accounts of local law enforcement or the Facebook page dedicated to AMBER alerts.