Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Women are being lured out of malls and into dangerous situations with the promise of appearing in television commericals.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1998]
Origins: This scare began circulating on the Internet in August 1998. There's no reason to worry unduly about clipboard-wielding strangers encountered at the local shopping mall — reports of abductions of this nature are not surfacing in the news, and it's clear women are not being kidnapped wholesale from malls by way of these ploys.
Inside Edition did air a segment very much as described, on
In an earlier report, we showed you how even the most carefully taught child can fall prey to someone trying to lure them away. Half the kids fell for our safety expert's trick. But did you ever think that you could be fooled? In another of our safety reports, Janet Tamaro tells us that even adults can fall victim to a dangerous lure.Showing that something can happen is not the same as reporting that it is happening. That's an important point; one that should be kept firmly in mind.
Inside Edition's efforts at capturing women were successful: in the space of three hours, their safety expert did manage to lure 10 of the
As part of the piece, Tamaro interviewed a 24-year-old woman who claimed in 1994 to have been lured off the street (not from a shopping mall) and into a parked van, then assaulted by a man who said his baby was gasping for breath. Such a report makes it appear there might be some basis for concern, but an astute viewer would then ask himself, "If the situation is epidemic, why are they using a four-year-old incident as their only example?"
It is possible there have been one or two such abductions over the years, but even so, nothing on a scale to support a level of hysteria called for in the
Despite the claim of this being "a new scam to abduct women," kidnappings by deception are neither the norm nor on the increase. Abductions from malls do happen, but they are mostly (if not entirely) of the old-fashioned variety: point a gun at someone's head, place a knife at the victim's throat, or pull her into a car. Lethal weapons and force, not guile, remain the tools of choice.
It's easy to see how the author of this
Inside Edition is not the most reliable of sources. The show's raison d'etre is to garner a viewership by sensationalism. In this case, the line between "could happen" and "is happening" was intentionally blurred to make a more watchable piece.
In March 2000, this bit of
Dismiss this scare as being born of a tabloid news show's desire to titillate its viewers. Women just aren't being grabbed in this fashion, and it doesn't matter how many "gullibility tests" shows like this air. The problem is not real.
It does pay to be careful around strangers, but this doesn't have to be taken to extremes, and an
Barbara "petrified doris" Mikkelson
Last updated: 10 October 2006
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