Was an Amber Alert issued for a child from Kentucky abducted by a man driving a grey car, license plate: Q72B381? No, that's not true: This Amber Alert is a hoax. It was never a true alarm. This copy/paste chainmail warning has been circulating online since 2009.
The false alarm reappeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook where it was published on August 30, 2020. It read:
WARNING...Could be headed into Ohio. AMBER ALERT!!! Edmonton, KY little girl 3 years old,picked up by a man driving a grey car,license plate: Q72B381 Put this as your status. It could save her!
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Oct 1 13:25:51 2020 UTC)
Below is a collection of screenshots of posts that were made over the years, including posts in French that were circulated by people in Quebec as well as versions directing people to "Reblog this."
One of the best ways to keep track of current real Amber Alerts is to follow the verified AMBER Alert Facebook Page run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This page will send Amber Alerts to the newsfeed of a Facebook user if an alert has been issued in their area. The alert posts will be updated by the NCMEC and marked as canceled when the case is resolved, as illustrated below.
The alerts from that verified Facebook page link back to the AMBER Alert page on the NCMEC website where all the active AMBER Alerts are listed. They explain the system this way:
AMBER Alerts are activated in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of a missing child. These alerts are broadcast through radio, TV, road signs, cellphones, and other data-enabled devices. The AMBER Alert system is being used in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian country, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 27 other countries.
The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs has tasked the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children with managing the AMBER Alert Secondary Distribution Program. When law enforcement issues an AMBER Alert, NCMEC is notified and re-distributes the alert to the appropriate secondary distributors.
This hoax pedates the Facebook Fact Checking program, which started in December of 2016.
The 2020 edition of this hoax going viral once again is the first opportunity for Lead Stories to address it.
Snopes published an article on July 16, 2009, explaining the complicated history of the hoax: "Fake Amber Alert: Plate 72B 381" The Snopes article explains how the hoax was spread with email, text messages, tweets and even blogs. The alarming message was modified to suit the locale where it was being spread, and caused many local police departments to issue statements that there was no real incident of a child abduction.