A text screenshot-turned meme is going around the internet claiming that law enforcement is warning the public about someone injecting poison into the caps of water bottles.
The post, shared on Facebook, appears to show a screenshot of a text message with "spread the word" written across the bottom. The message claims law enforcement sent out an alert instructing people to check the tops of water bottles because "somebody is going around injecting poison" into them. It goes on to say that "a few people already died in the Richmond area," and said "the sheriff" just made an announcement.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The rumor cites no evidence, identifies no sources, and does not specify which "Richmond area" – there are several throughout the U.S.
We could not find any news or law enforcement reports that support or expand on the claim – and if several people had died from drinking poisoned bottled water, it would have garnered extensive national media coverage. A widespread recall of potentially tainted products would have also come in the wake of such an incident.
Additionally, if government officials were, in fact, warning the public, it would be done on government websites and official social media channels.
The timing suggests the rumor started then from a viral Facebook post on March 3. That post claimed that the caps of several bottles of water in a package purchased at a Walmart in Bennington, Vermont, had been punctured with a "pin, needle, or similar sharp object."
The Bennington Police Department launched an investigation into the matter shortly after the post was made, according to a news release issued March 22.
"Currently, there does not appear to be any danger to the public," police said in the statement. "...No other cases of water have been located with punctures in them. The staff at the Bennington Walmart have been extremely cooperative and helpful with the investigation."
A rumor re-circulating on social media claims that law enforcement officials have asked people to check the caps of bottled water because someone is puncturing them to inject the water with poison. The warning message also said multiple people have already died as a result of the poisoning "in the Richmond area."
There are no credible news or police reports that support such a claim, nor has there been any official warnings or product recalls. The same rumor was debunked months ago by other fact-checking websites.
This post is Pants on Fire.