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Missing Child: Penny Brown

Forwarded 'Amber Alert' about missing child 'Penny Brown' is a hoax. No such person has been reported missing in the United States.

Description: Email hoax
Circulating since: Sep. 2001
Status: False

Email example contributed by J. Schroeder, Sep. 21, 2001:

I am asking you all, begging you to please, forward this email on to anyone and everyone you know, PLEASE. My 9 year old girl, Penny Brown, is missing. She has been missing for now two weeks. It is still not too late, Please help us.

If anyone anywhere knows anything, sees anything, please contact me at zicozicozico@hotmail.com

I am including a picture of her. All prayers are appreciated!!

It only takes 2 seconds to forward this on, if it was your child, you would want all the help you could get. Please.

thank you for your kindness, hopefully you can help us.

Monzine Jang
Office Administrator
G208, Health Sciences Centre
Faculty of Medicine
University of Calgary

[Phone number deleted]
[Fax number deleted] (fax)

Penny Brown (allegedly)

Comments: Compare the first sentence of this message to that of two previous missing child alerts of Internet fame, Kelsey Brooke Jones and C.J. Mineo Jr. You'll find they're identical, as are several other passages in the text.

This email, which has circulated continuously since September 2001, is a hoax. I could find no record of a missing child by the name of "Penny Brown" in any of the usual databases. Nor have there been any news reports of a missing child by that name in the Calgary media. When I queried the Calgary Police Department, its Missing Persons Coordinator replied as follows: "At this time we regard this email as a hoax. We have not received any official complaint regarding this matter and I feel that if this was legitimate, a parent would have contacted us."

Monzine Jang, whose signature line appears at the bottom of early versions of the alert, is a real person whose voicemail message states that she did not author the email, that Penny Brown is not her child, and that she, too, believes the alert to be a hoax. Unsurprisingly, the contact email address, "zicozicozico@hotmail.com," yields an "Inbox Full" autoresponse when mail is sent to it.

The true identity of the child in the photograph is unknown.

Update: Austin, Texas variant - As often happens when a forwarded email spreads, variants have appeared with different signature blocks tailing the message. One new version "signed" by a woman in Austin, Texas makes it appear as though Penny Brown is missing from that city instead of Calgary. Not true. The Austin version is a hoax too, as confirmed by the Austin American-Statesman.

Update: Sydney, Australia variant - The infamous Penny Brown relocated Down Under in late October 2001, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The message is circulating in Australia under the name and email address of Helen Bessenyei of Sydney, who told reporters has no daughter at all, let alone one named Penny Brown. Ms. Bessenyei reports receiving as many as 150 email inquiries a day seeking information about the supposedly missing child, not to mention ransom demands from various loonies.

Update: The Hoax Read 'Round the World - As of January 2002, we have received additional "Penny Brown" variants localized in Ohio, Singapore, southern California, northern California and South Carolina (forgive me if I've left anyone out). Sightings of the message are still being reported from Canada to Thailand to Namibia. And where she stops, nobody knows....

Update: 'Amber Alert' - In June 2003 someone added the phrase "Amber Alert" to the header (and, in some cases, the body) of one version of the Penny Brown email.

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Sources and further reading:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Information clearinghouse

Child CyberSearch Ontario
Canadian missing child database

Netlore: Sick, Dying and Missing Children
More email rumors and hoaxes

Current Hoaxes / Netlore
The Urban Legends Top 25

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