SA police: ‘Don’t help crying children’ warning a hoax

A post shared on social media warns that in South Africa crying children are being used to lure unsuspecting victims to criminals. Is this a legitimate threat?

South Africans need to be on high alert about two new crime trends – according to an “urgent message” shared on Facebook.

It warns: “If you find a child crying on the road showing his/her address and asking you to take him/her to that address, immediately take that child to the police station and please DO NOT take the child to the address.

“This is a new way to gang rape women and girls, rob and kill men and boys.”

The second warning refers to free key holders handed out by criminals to track cars.

Are these legitimate threats or a snowballing social media hoax?

‘The warning is not legitimate’

Africa Check had no luck calling the numbers listed on the warning. The first number was permanently engaged and the second no longer exists. We also could not find the landline number listed on the police services website.

And when we tried to track down the “Lt Col. MJ Krugel” that supposedly issued the warning, we discovered that people had been trying to verify the authenticity of this message as early as 2011.

Head of media communication for the police, brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, told Africa Check that the warning was a hoax.

“The warning is not legitimate. It has been doing the rounds for ten plus years and we’ve been trying to combat it,” he said. To date they haven’t been able to track down the person who first shared it.

Naidoo told Africa Check he had no record of a person name “Lt Col MJ Krugel” in the police service.

He said that the police have not received reports of either incident in South Africa. In fact, both warnings have been dismissed as frauds by hoax debunking websites before.

Conclusion: ‘Urgent message’ is a hoax

The warning shared on social media describing two “new” criminal tactics is a hoax.

The police said they did not release the statement and that they have not received reports of either crying children used as a lure by criminals or of free key holders tracking cars.

Members of the public should share accurate crime information, Naidoo said. “We always encourage people to be alert and streetwise but they must rely on legitimate warnings not hoaxes.”

He said that members of the public can verify information by contacting their local police station.


Additional reading

Are spiked oranges the latest hijacking ploy in South Africa?

GUIDE: How to spot fakes and hoaxes online

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