Human sympathy keeps mass emails circulating
When I finally sat down at the computer again after several days of ‘moving office’ activities in various borrowed and rental trucks, I opened a ‘Your help is needed’ email – with photo – about a tsunami child victim who could remember nothing.
“Please don’t break the chain” the email asked, “your contribution could be the one that solves this little girl’s problem. Please forward this to all your contacts.” A Perth police sergeant’s name, phone, fax and mobile numbers were all included at the bottom of the email.
The email had been forwarded several times and, though moved, I was also a little suspicious, so I contacted my IT adviser who came up with the facts.
He said his usual response to this sort of email, as with most of us, is to presume that it is a hoax/spam/virus BUT if it is interesting enough it’s always ‘worth a Google’. The police contact details are probably fake, he said, but add credibility so people still send it on.
After checking with Hoax-Slayer and Snopes it turned out the story was true but outdated – ‘another case of an e-mailed plea to help locate or identify a lost child that has continued to circulate long after its goal has been accomplished’. The email is now basically a virus – though a lot less harmful.
What was the story?
A little girl at the Phuket Hospital, after being seriously injured in the undersea earthquake, had been separated from her parents and didn’t remember anything. Her nationality was unknown and an email was circulated. A few days later she was identified as Sophia Marleen Michl from Germany and on 29 December 2004 she was transported from Thailand to relatives in Germany where she received further medical treatment. She was doing reasonably well, all things considered, though her parents had not been found.
Another toddler recovered through the net
A 14 month old Swedish toddler was separated from his family in the tsunami in southern Thailand, discovered unconscious and taken to hospital. His photo was put on the hospital website and identified on the internet by his uncle who booked an air ticket and arrived there in 5 hours. Late December 2004, the child was reunited with his father with his father, brother, and grandparents who survived. His mother was still missing. The Age, December 30, 2004.
When you read the facts it’s hard to believe these requests for help are still circulating – what are your experiences?