Facebook posts that have been shared thousands of times—including one post shared over 28,000 times—falsely claim to be a police bulletin, warning the public of a scam involving face masks doused in chemicals.
The information in these posts is not true, and this is not the first time this misinformation has been shared. This claim has spread and found to be false in many different countries around the world.
The posts reads:
People are going door to door handing out masks, they say it’s a new initiative from local government. They will always ask you to please put it on to see if it fits you. It has been doused with chemicals which knocks you out cold and once you're knocked out they proceed to rob you. Please do not accept masks from strangers. Remember, we are living in critical times and people are desperate to take advantage with the aim of making money. Crime rate has skyrocketed, so please be cautious and play safe!
Please send to all your friends, colleagues and loved ones so as to help them stay vigilant in this adverse situation.
Remember, sharing is caring!”
Full Fact cannot find any evidence of a UK police bulletin or other police warnings about this, and there are no reports in the media of this scam taking place.
The post does not include the town, region or even country where this scam is supposed to be carried out, and the same post or very similar versions have been shared globally, with fact checkers around the world finding it to be false.
It has been debunked by Snopes and PolitiFact in the USA, AFP in South Africa, CORRECTIV in Germany, Maldita.es in Spain and The Journal in Ireland. Police in Singapore have warned against sharing the false information, while India Today has reported similar claims being spread in videos on Whatsapp, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok.
Reuters found a UK version of the post to be false in April, but the same claim has re-emerged this week.
The Metropolitan Police recommends that you check the ID of anyone knocking on your door claiming to be from a company. It says you should not call the phone number on their ID card, but ask them to wait outside while you search for the company’s phone number on the internet. Do not let them into your property if you have concerns.
Age UK recommends putting up a sign on your door or window to deter cold callers, setting passwords with utility companies to be used by anyone sent to your home and finding out if you have a nominated neighbour scheme to help make sure callers are safe.