A rumor that started on Facebook about a serial killer on the loose in the area got so out of hand this week that law enforcement had to step in with an official denial.
The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office posted a rebuttal to the rumor on Wednesday and asked the community to share the message. As of Thursday, the sheriff’s post had been shared nearly 2,000 times in 13 hours.
“There is a bad rumor going around that four dead bodies have been discovered in Cleveland County and there's a serial killer on the lose. This is not true,” the Facebook post stated. “The sheriff's office nor the Shelby Police Department are working any such case. We would encourage those who are posting and sharing this to stop.”
It was unclear Thursday exactly how the rumor got started.
Many people fell for the ruse and contacted local authorities by phone and email, Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman told The Shelby Star . The rumor is credited to a website that allows users to post false news reports, the Star reported.
Commenters on Facebook noted a similar rumor recently popped up about a serial killer in Cherokee and Spartanburg counties, in South Carolina. Critics also noted the original “fake news” story was filled with spelling mistakes.
“I wish people would quit...scaring everybody to death,” posted Deborah Couch of Ellenboro. “I don’t live in Shelby, but have family that does, and I was really worried.”