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'Tis the season for Ho-Ho-Hoaxes

Lenore Skenazy on

A 16-year-old girl abducted by four men in a car as she walked down a Bronx street with her mom on Monday night -- an incident captured on a video grainier than the moon landing -- has admitted this was a hoax.

Karol Sanchez's family is from Honduras, and The New York Times reports that they were thinking of moving back there -- something Karol Sanchez did not want to do. The Times also said that the girl mentioned something to the cops about her mom being "overprotective."

If this was a ploy to make Mom less overprotective, we'll have to chalk it up as a failure.

In any case, everyone who was very worried about this girl should be happy about the news. She's safe -- not raped or murdered or sold into sex slavery.

But let's also keep reality in mind next time one of these things happens. While only a cynic would have said, "I'll bet this is a hoax," the second the Amber Alert went out, it does look pretty fishy in hindsight.

How so? Well, it's just extremely rare for a child to be kidnapped by strangers, especially when the child is not alone. It happens a lot more on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" than it does in real life. According to the Crimes Against Children Resource Center, 105 people under the age of 18 endured what's called a "stereotypical kidnapping" in 2011, the most recent year for which we have the data. (About 92% of them made it back alive.)

It feels as if the girl may have suffered from the same misperception as Ronald Clark O'Bryan. He's the man who poisoned his son's candy on Halloween back in 1974. He was easily caught because he had taken out several insurance policies on the boy. But my guess is what really did him in was his incorrect assumption that Halloween poisonings are so common that what happened to his son wouldn't stand out. I'll bet that Sanchez thought stranger abductions are a lot more common than they really are, too.

Of course, we can't know what was going on in Sanchez's mind as she decided the hoax was a wise course of action. We can only marvel at the strange spate of hoaxes this year.

The most famous was the "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's. He reported to cops that he had been attacked in the wee hours of a frigid Chicago morn by two masked men who told the openly gay actor, "This is MAGA country!" This story was so strange that its unraveling was not a complete surprise.


And then there was the mom at a mall in West Virginia who claimed a man grabbed her daughter and was dragging her off to be kidnapped -- until Mom pulled out a pistol and the guy ran off.

The suspect was quickly found and thrown in jail -- until mall security footage (presumably higher quality than the Bronx video) -- showed the mom and the suspect exiting the mall separately and calmly. The mom was then charged with making a false accusation.

All of which leads to our word to the wise in the coming year: Do not fake a kidnapping -- your own or anyone else's.

Although the producers of "Empire" just announced that they may bring Smollett back for the finale. So ...

Nah. We stand by our advice. Hoax not.


Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy ( and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


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