Fake Amber Alert Causes Stir Across the Permian Basin

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA--What is it about these types of messages that makes them spread like wildfire?

We now know it wasn't a real Amber Alert.   We also know there were a lot of obivious signs in the text message, that screamed fake.

"The text message that went out would never meet the criteria of an Amber Alert," Cpl. Sherrie Carruth with the Odessa Police Department, said.

At first glance, anyone would jump to follow the directions on the screen.   Forwarding a text message Amber Alert not knowing it's totally untrue.

According to Carruth, "Someone may have a situation where they do have a missing child.  It is not for them to put out an Amber Alert.  One, it's not valid and they can't do that, because there is criteria that the state requires for you to do that."

The U.S. Department of Justice has list of of things that need to be done for an Amber Alert to happen. Carruth says, the phone text message fell way short there and other areas too, "It's going to have a tag letting you know that it's valid, where it's coming from.  In this case, all it said was Amber Alert and a bunch of explanations.  There was no tag on it to let you know whether it was from law enforcement or if it was just somebody forwarding this through."

Whether or not they're true, why are people so quick to respond and react to messages like this one?  Carruth says, anything with children, tugs on people's heart strings, "If we ever had a missing child around here, this community steps up to the plate, gets out there and will do whatever they can to help find that child."

But why would someone put something out there, knowing it's fake?

"To them, they think it's a laugh.  Who knows what they're underying reason is?  Maybe, just to see how far it will go, how massive will it get," Carruth explained.

The Corporal added, messages like this one, are best left alone and deleted, especially since they could have serious consequences on the valuable Amber Alert service, "It's kind of like a car alarm out in the parking lot.  They look, they don't see anything, people keep on going.  They don't pay it no mind, because how many false alarms have they seen?"

Forwarded messages, like this one, are hard to trace.   If the person responsible were to be caught, the only charges that could be filed, would be filing a false report.