A Facebook post warning people to look out for a dangerous man in a small town in Northern Ireland is false and appears to be part of a wider hoax on social media.
The post is accompanied by a candid shot of a bearded man walking down a street. It says: “Watch out for this man, he's going around door to door in Magherafelt, asking for money as he is saying he is locked out of his house. British accent also writting [sic] details down. House he was claiming was his, wasn't. If you don't give him the money, he will attack you. He attacked 3 home-alone teens last night with a knife and now wanted by the police for several crimes. If he knocks on your door, please call the Authorities. WARN OTHERS.”
Although Full Fact has been unable to locate the source of the original image in this post, there is ample evidence that this post and others that are similar are false.
A spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland told Full Fact they were aware of the post and believed it to be a “hoax”.
We have found multiple posts from recent weeks featuring the same picture and almost identical wording claiming the incident took place in a variety of locations across the UK including Aberdeenshire, Chesterfield, Bicester and Castlemilk in Glasgow.
We have also found dozens more examples of the post from further afield including Frederick in Maryland, Lubbock in Texas and Perth in Western Australia.
The posts are usually being shared on pages belonging to local online marketplaces or residential associations.
A press release published on the Facebook page of the Moorhead Police Department in Minnesota says: “We have been made aware of a post circulating on social media referring to a male approaching people in their homes, asking for help, and then assaulting them in Moorhead. We have not received any reports of this activity.
“Our Crime Analyst has been working on this information and could not locate any calls for service but was able to find the same picture; however, listing a different city approximately 20 to 30 times on social media.
“We have not discovered any data to show this situation is factual but have found several examples that lead us to believe this is false.”
A similar statement has been shared by Burleson Police Department Texas, which states: “We do not know the origin of this post, however we can advise that we are NOT currently working any cases that are related to what this post is claiming.
“This appears to be a fake post designed to cause alarm in our community.”
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An article on the website of WKDQ 99.5, a radio station in the city of Evansville in the US state of Indiana, found a different version of the same post featuring the same text but a photograph showing what appears to be a different man standing next to a vehicle.
Full Fact has been unable to locate the original version of the image but the post it is attached to has also been widely shared on social media.
The Hazleton City Police Department in Pennsylvania has issued a warning about this version of the post being fake and says some of its officers were recently “dispatched to confront an innocent man, solely due to the allegations made in one of these posts” as a member of the public believed the police were looking for homeless men.
Reliable, up-to-date information about people wanted for crimes can be found through the websites or social media pages of local police forces.
Image courtesy of Ashley Harkness