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Hoax Alert

Fake News: Walmart And Several Police Departments DENY Shooting Threat Rumors Are Real

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Sat, 17 Aug 2019 08:17:08 Z)

Did police warn against going to Walmart this weekend because of shooting threats? No, that's not true: several police departments and a Walmart spokesperson denied there is any substance to the story which seems to be entirely based on messages being forwarded online.

Several viral messages are spreading like wildfire on social media, the most common one seems to be this one:

8036288196: I just received this text

Whatever you do this weekend do not go to Wal-Mart for nothing at all pass this on to family and friends. Got this info from a police officer that is a family member they arrested a man for gun threats and he told that he was not the only one and that his accomplices will be going to different Wal-Mart stores and shooting. Not a game this is real...

An example of that message can be seen in this post (archived here):

Screenshot of https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=979167235760849

Here is an example of what the most common message looks like:

walmartthreat.jpg

Lead Stories contacted Walmart about the message and received following reply:

We take any threats seriously and are working with law enforcement to look into them, but at this point these threats are unsubstantiated and appear to be spreading through social media.

We also tried calling the number the text supposedly came from but an automated message from Verizon claimed the call could not go through yesterday and this morning it went to a full voicemail inbox and disconnected.

Several variations of the message exist, some claiming they came from a "SSgt Winston" or from a niece who works at Walmart. Some messages also name specific towns, cities or Walmart locations. Police departments all over the country have put out statements online saying they are aware of the messages but that they don't seem to be based on any real threat:

LPD says shooting threat on social media is a hoax

LUBBOCK, Texas - On Tuesday, several audience members reached out to EverythingLubbock.com concerning a message going around social media about a potential mass shooting threat at Wal-Mart locations in the area. EverythingLubbock.com reached out to Captain Ray Mendoza with the Lubbock Police Department. He said officers are aware of the message, but that it is [...]

BPD: Nothing found to substantiate Facebook posts regarding threat at Walmart

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) - The Bakersfield Police Department has found nothing to substantiate posts on Facebook alleging an arrest or threat at a local Walmart. Police spokesman Sgt. Nathan McCauley said no arrests have been made and nothing has been found in connection to what the "extremely generic" posts alleged.

Jacksonville Police say viral Walmart threat on Facebook is not credible

A viral Facebook post concerning a possible threat of violence at Jacksonville Walmart stores turns out to be an apparent case of mistaken identity with the larger same-name city much further south. The Jacksonville Police Department says many people reached out on social media overnight regarding the possibility of an active shooter threat to local Walmart stores, telling everyone to stay away from the businesses this weekend.

Whenever you see messages online about some threat or danger, always check Google, news reports or the site of your local police department first before blindly forwarding them: it will avoid a lot of panic and wasted police resources.

About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

About Lead Stories

Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

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