Fake BBM sparks panic

2014-05-24 00:00

A PRANK BlackBerry Messenger broadcast alert about a mass shooting at the Chatsworth Centre had police and emergency services on high alert lon Thursday night, with call centres inundated with reports of the “robbery in progress”.

The message read: “Shooting going in at the Chatsworth Centre. Please do not go there and please pass this on. Two security guards have been shot dead and five patrons have been critically injured.

“Police have barricaded the bottom floor and the suspects are still inside. Please stay away. Please rebroadcast this message warning friends and family not to go anywhere near the centre.”

Provincial police confirmed that the message was a fake and warned pranksters that if found out, they could face arrest and criminal charges. The police’s 10111 call centre based in Durban receives thousands of hoax and prank calls every month, making the response to legitimate emergencies all the more challenging.

A source within the call centre, who cannot be named as they are not authorised to speak to the press, said that lines had “gone crazy” with people calling about the “shooting”.

The source said that personnel had been hastily dispatched to the centre and found nothing had happening. “This incident kept our lines busy for most of the night. It is highly irresponsible because people with real emergencies may have been unable to get through to us when they really needed to.”

The call centre, which handles emergencies for the entire Durbanmetropolitan area, fields about 60 000 distress calls per month. At least 60% of those calls are classified as hoax or prank phone calls.

Chatsworth Centre manager Nishtha Sanichur said she was aware of the message but declined to comment on whether it had affected operations at the popular mall.

Police spokesperson Jay Naic­ker did not respond to questions by the time of going to press.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Man scores date with tennis superstar after Twitter bet

It’s a modern day Cinderella story, but one American man took ‘shoot your shot’ seriously in 2017.


You won't want to miss...

6 myths about male cancer
Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.