A series of Facebook posts have caused alarm in community groups across Australia, warning of “a serial killer or abductor” kidnapping women in his truck.
But the warning posts are fake. The man pictured, who has not been accused of the stated crimes, is an inmate at a Tennessee prison.
His image was released by police in the US state after he is alleged to have walked off a work crew on July 7.
Police in the US and Australia have labelled the serial killer posts as a hoax.
The earliest Australian version of the post found by AAP FactCheck was shared to the Griffith Buy Swap an Sell Anything, Everything Facebook group.
The caption reads: “There’s a serial killer or abductor currently hunting in Griffith, my friend was almost taken by him. He drives a truck with led lights and hits Cars of women alone and once they pull over he takes them. If you are in the area and are hit by a truck with led lights keep driving and call the cops. Stay safe.”
The text is identical to several posts shared in Australia and the US with only the town name changed in each iteration (see here, here, here and here). Similar posts with identical captions but photos of different men have been shared in the US (here, here and here).
The majority of posts, including the Griffith version, were created by Facebook users from Zimbabwe. Agence France-Presse (AFP) has identified similar viral hoaxes targeting local Facebook groups, originating from users in Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Chief Inspector at Griffith Police Station John Wadsworth confirmed the post is fake, stressing the need for people to be discerning about where they source their information.
“It’s important to go through reputable news channels or NSW Police on these matters,” he told AAP FactCheck in a phone call.
AAP FactCheck has identified the man in the photos shared in Australia as an inmate at a Tennessee prison. Dickson County sheriff’s office announced he walked off a work crew on July 7 but was remanded in custody later that day. In an August 15 post, the sheriff confirmed that the man in the photo had no connection to the crimes detailed in the viral posts.
Several US police departments have warned against sharing these posts, which they have also identified as hoaxes (here, here and here). Moline Police Department in Illinois noted that the post had been circulating around the US and Canada and cautioned against believing everything you read on the internet.
“President Abraham Lincoln once famously said, ‘You can’t believe everything you see on the internet.’ Well he obviously never said that, but the statement could not be more true,” a Moline PD representative said.
Fact-checks produced by Africa Check and a Rochester, New York news program also found the posts to be fake. None, however, could solve the mystery of why people are spreading these hoaxes in the first place.
Claims of a serial killer on the loose in Australian towns are false. A Tennessee sheriff’s office confirmed the man pictured is a local inmate with no connection to the crimes described. Australian police confirmed there is no serial killer on the loose.
False – The claim is inaccurate.