Merced County Sheriff's investigators are looking into what they believe is a text message hoax sent to the cell phones of residents and law enforcement agencies Wednesday morning.
The message, which was sent to the sheriff's department after 9 a.m., stated that two girls had been kidnapped from Merced in a brown Jeep Liberty. The text ended with the words: "FORWARD EVERYONE YOU CAN."
Cmdr. Doug Jensen said investigators are trying to determine who sent the fake message.
Jensen said his department, in addition to the California Highway Patrol, Merced Police Department and Atwater Police Department, received a flurry of more than 20 telephone calls from concerned residents after the text messages were sent.
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Jensen said no law enforcement agencies in the Merced County area on Wednesday had received reports of any kidnapping -- and investigators don't believe there's any truth to the claims in the text message that two girls were kidnapped.
"We've checked with all the agencies, and there seems to be no proof to this whatsoever," Jensen said.
The text also contained a license plate number for a car, which investigators have checked. Jensen said the department has never received a text message hoax at Wednesday's level.
"Text messages have become a form of communication for everybody nowadays. I think this is just an example of how it got blown out of proportion, and it's just spreading like wildfire," he said.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.