DOJ: News Release

False AMBER Alert Circulating via E-mail and Text Messages

HELENA – Mike Batista, administrator of the Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, on Thursday advised Montanans not to respond to or circulate an e-mail or text message that claims to be an AMBER Alert for a missing Montana child.

“The information in this message is false,” Batista said. “No ‘little girl’ from Eastern Montana has been taken, the child referenced has been missing from North Dakota since 2006, and the name and phone number given in the e-mail are for a Montana family that has no connection to a missing child case. This is causing inconvenience for the couple named and misusing the AMBER Alert network.” [updated February 13, 2009]

Batista said that similar messages have been sent out in North Dakota, Minnesota and Utah.

According to Batista, when there is a legitimate AMBER Alert in Montana, law enforcement contacts the Department of Justice, which issues an active alert through a national AMBER Alert website. The normal banner on the Department of Justice website is replaced by an AMBER Alert banner that contains a link to the national website for details of the suspected abduction. Computer and cell phone users can sign up to receive e-mail and text messages of suspected abductions within Montana, but any alerts will be sent under the heading of the Montana Department of Justice.

Batista encouraged people to check that a text or e-mail message like this is legitimate, before passing it on.

“The goal of our AMBER Alert program is to get information about a missing child out to the media and citizens as quickly as possible, so it will be on the television and radio news and in the newspaper,” Batista said. “The best way to verify something like this is to check the Department of Justice website, or a local news station or newspaper website.”

More information about the AMBER Alert program is available on the Department of Justice website at www.doj.mt.gov/enforcement/missingpersons/amberalertprogram.aspx.

The text of the false missing child report follows:

“Subject: Fw: AMBER ALERT- missing girl in Montana

Please spread this picture far and wide…. You just never know.
This little girl was taken from Eastern Montana.
Reachelle Marie Smith, Birthdate: 9/10/02.. Answers to Peanut.
BEFORE YOU SKIP THIS, LOOK AT THE CHILD. DO IT AGAIN. NOW SEND IT TO ALL IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK. IT TAKES 10 SECONDS. PEOPLE ARE MISSING HER AND SHE WANTS TO BE HOME. DO SOMETHING GOOD.

IF YOUR CHILD WAS MISSING WOULDN’T YOU PRAY THAT EVERYONE PASSED THIS EMAIL ON! DO THE RIGHT THING AND LOOK AND FORWARD!”

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