Wal-Mart hoax spreading via SMS text messages


Up and down America, mobile phone users are forwarding SMS messages to each other warning that women and children will be killed at a Wal-Mart store.

The cellphone messages claim that the killings will be part of a planned ‘gang initiation’ rite.

The only problem with these warnings is that they have no basis in fact, and members of the general public are forwarding it without applying some common sense first.

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In fact, the only people likely to make a killing are Wal-Mart’s competitors, as customers boycott the discount department store in fear of their lives.

Typical SMS messages that have been seen forwarded via text message include the following examples:

FWD: Police are asking all women not to go to any Walmart tonight there is a gang initiation and three women will be shot this is not a joke pls foward

Fwd: Do not go to any walmart tonight. Gang initiation to shoot 3 women tonight. Not sure which walmart. And confirmd on tv. Forward 2 all girls on ur phone

Of course, the people innocent forwarding it to their friends and families are not spreading the message to cause mischief. They really believe they are helping others – and may even believe that even if the message is not likely to be true, it’s “worth taking the risk” just in case..

However, the Wal-Mart hoax is not completely new and a quick Google of the internet will reveal the truth.

In fact, a version of this hoax has been spreading via internet email since at least July 2005.

The curious thing, of course, is what is it about people that makes them so prepared to forward warnings like this without at least doing the most rudimentary checking of the facts first? Even a quick visit to Walmart’s website finds that they have published information in their “Top stories” section, debunking the warning as a hoax:

Walmart website

(Ugly red arrow added by me)

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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