Iowans are being warned about bogus Amber Alerts they might be seeing in e-mail or text messages. The messages claim a three-year-old girl was taken by a man in a silver pickup truck and often list a license plate number and a county in Iowa. Jessica Lown, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, says rest assured, they’re not real alerts but are part of a cruel hoax.
“It plays on people’s sympathies,” Lown says. “There are a lot of really good people out there, especially here in Iowa, who want to help, who see this and think, ‘Oh, my goodness! There’s a child in danger. I’ve gotta’ let people know,’ and they forward this on to their friends and family. That’s great that people want to help but folks need to check out the legitimacy of something like this first.”
If you don’t verify it ahead of time, she says, you’re only contributing to the problem by passing along the false report. “The best place that you can go is to our website, ‘iowamberalert.org’ which is run by the Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Iowa State Patrol,” Lown says. “We are charged with approving and activating all Amber Alerts here in the state of Iowa.”
Lown says Iowans who think there is a credible threat to a child, should contact local law enforcement. Over the past few weeks, several reports of child enticement or attempted child abductions have been reported in central Iowa. She says if you didn’t get the information directly from a law enforcement agency or credible news organization, it likely began circulating as a prank. The only way to get Amber Alert notifications via text message is if you have personally signed up for them, via the same website: “www.iowaamberalert.org“.