Amber Alerts — fake and real — spread on Twitter

By John Bowman,

Yesterday, two different Amber Alerts made it to Twitter's tending topics. One was fake; one was real. Can you tell the difference?

AMBER ALERT: W States- 4 Hispanic kids ages 4-9, in 98 Mercury Sable. Nevada plates #369SDH. Kids' last name: Mata-Martinez

The first one is a real Amber Alert issued Sunday in California and Nevada. The second one is a fake alert that's been circulating in email forwards since at least February. In an earlier version of the message, the girl was said to be seven years old, not three.

As readers of know, nuisance Amber Alert messages fall broadly into two categories: Genuine reports that continue to circulate long after the child in question has been found, and fake alerts for children who aren't missing or don't exist.

Well-meaning folks will forward these emails and, now, retweet the details of an Amber Alert without checking if they're real or current. This diminishes the effectiveness of the Amber Alert system.

If you're tempted to spread the word about an Amber Alert, be sure to check the website of the U.S. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which lists all the current Amber Alerts.

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My sister just sent me the fake one in a text 10 mins ago, she thought it just happened. I looked it up and found this article. So annoying, freaking out about something that is a scam! Friggin people...get a life!!!

Posted July 15, 2009 06:04 PM

Alex Shetsen


I've always wondered about real effectiveness of Amber Alerts. Not only are there no reliable figures about the rates of recovery widely available, but the whole tactic seems just one more police encouragement of endless hysteria: very unhealthy.

Posted July 16, 2009 01:30 PM

Pumpkin Eater


You would think the real Amber Alert would include a date and time, as well as location.

Posted July 17, 2009 11:54 AM


HINT: Stop forwarding in general. Fake amber alerts are just one way to waste everyone's time. There are plenty of others.

Try googling the next story you're thinking about forwarding. I would bet a lot of money you'll find it listed as an urban legend or spam.

Posted July 20, 2009 11:44 AM

Jodi Marie


I got a msg on my phone last week about an amber alert for a child taken in saskatoon. of course i passed it on but did some looking around after. nothing was ever reported and i havent heard anything since. i feel dumb about passing it on now but at the time i thought it was a genuine alert.
not cool.

Posted July 20, 2009 12:32 PM

Yan Charpentier

I just got it on Facebook from my mom who had posted it on her status. I was going to pass it on my status and in a chat room, a woman from Toronto told me it was fake and gave me the link for this site to check it out for proof....

Posted July 23, 2009 10:30 PM

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