I’ve been browsing on Snopes.com, which is an awesome directory of chain/forward message legends and scams and whatnot that have been running around the internet. It also tells you whether the forward message is true or not. Or if it’s just a mixture of true and false that has strayed so far away from whatever it used to be. It’s an awesome site, and if you receive a chain message which you just don’t know is true or not, check out Snopes.com and search for it.
The tale of Ashley Flores is one of the top 25 messages that are going around the internet right now. It’s about a 13 year old girl from Philadelphia who went missing.
Only it was completely FALSE.
Here at Snopes is the forward message in it’s entirety. It includes a picture of an attractive brunette with a big smile, seen below.
My 13 year old girl, Ashley Flores, is missing. She has been missing now for two weeks. It is still not too late. Please help us. If anyone any where knows anything, please contact me at ____@_____. I am including a picture of her.
All prayers are appreciated!
Some people on Facebook fall for the “send this message to 15 people and your account will not be shut down. Signed, Founder of Facebook.” Many people on the interwebz fell for this message in a similar way. Because starting a forward message and sending it to everyone you know is the best way to find a (fake) missing girl. “Keep the picture moving on.”
And you would want all the help you could get, if it was your child. Only if it was your child, would you start a forward message begging your friends to take a couple of seconds to forward it to their entire address book?
Yeah, maybe. Because according to this forward message, the internet circulates overseas. People use TV to advertise real missing people. Why not a chain message? Brilliant idea! Noting that no official report was filed about Ashley, you could bypass the cops, the Missing Children organizations, the signs in supermarkets… just start a cool chain message talking about a FAKE person who doesn’t even exist!
Heartless is the brute who refuses to forward the message and instead deletes it. There’s a fake missing child at risk here! Do it for your fake missing child that you don’t even have!
According to Snopes, this alert falls into one of two categories. There’s the chain message that goes around about a real child who really is missing. And it goes around and around and around, even after the missing child has been found. At which point people are really really annoyed and wish they never started the forward in the first place.
Then there’s the message that is a hoax. It implores readers to look for fake children who aren’t missing and who don’t exist. That’s the category this one falls into.
And if you were making an email about a real person and telling people about it, wouldn’t you say where the girl went missing, when she went missing, when and where she was last seen, a physical description, contact information for her parents, contact information for the local police, and so on. But no. This is a very vague forward, with vague information. Her mother is a deli manager from Philadelphia with a daughter that had been missing for two weeks. How many deli managers from Philadelphia are there? The forward gives the impression that only one exists.
In this case it was a particularly bad and widespread prank, one that left thousands and thousands of concerned citizens attempting to verify the status of a missing girl who wasn’t really missing.
And that’s what makes this forward particularly nasty. People were worried about this girl. They tried to find out whether she was found or not. They spent time and energy worrying about something that didn’t exist.
And after a version appeared over the signature of Staff Sergeant Rick Williams of the Rolla Police Department, they spent money calling the Rolla Police Department to ask whether Ashley Flores was all right. Even though the department confirmed that there was no official report of a girl named Ashley Flores missing, the department still receives hundreds of calls every day asking about this teenager.
Who doesn’t even exist. And even if she does exist, she’s not lost at all.
All this mess and nastiness and worry just because someone thought he or she would have a bit of fun screwing with people’s minds. There’s a reason pranks like this example are illegal. It also hampers with communications and law enforcement operations.
It’s sick, that’s what it is.
When you go on Snopes, you can find reports from a police department as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer.