Facebook post a hoax: Legoland

A HORRIFYING story of a child being drugged and having his appearance altered in an attempted kidnapping at a Legoland is making its rounds again on social media again.

A screen shot of a Facebook post by a user, Daniel Boey, claims that a six-year-old boy went missing in the theme park after the boy's mother took her eyes off him for just a few seconds while queuing up for food.

The boy was found a few hours later wearing different clothes and shoes, was without his hair, and in a drowsy state.

While the post did not specify which Legoland it was, Legoland Malaysia said it has received a number of calls from concerned visitors recently about this post.

The attraction, which is about 30 minutes away from Tuas Checkpoint by car, is popular with Singaporean families who make up about a third of the visitorship.

Mr Mark Germyn, divisional director of Legoland Malaysia Resort's executive office, told The Straits Times that the post was a hoax and that no such incident had happened in any of the six Legolands in the world.

"We pride ourselves as being a safe and secure environment for our guests to be in... We take such matters extremely seriously," he said Mr Germyn. "It's very hard to control what gets shared on social media and this hoax has come up consistently and caused unnecessary concern for parents."

Legoland said when the post first surfaced in 2012, it filed a report with Malaysian police and reported the matter to Facebook.

Inspector Wong Chee Hoong, officer in charge of Anjung Police Station in Johor, said: "The Facebook post is bogus and there have been no kidnapping cases or such reports in Legoland Malaysia Resort."

Attempts to reach Mr Boey to verify his story were unsuccessful.

Mr Germyn stressed that despite the attraction spanning more than 307,500 sq m, or the size of five football fields, and having thousands of visitors, the entire park was safe and under surveillance.

There are surveillance cameras around the park as well as park rangers and plainclothes security officers patrolling. There is also a police booth near the entrance of the theme park, he said.

When The Straits Times visited Legoland Malaysia last week, police officers were seen patrolling.

Mrs Candice Sek, 33, a social worker who was in the park last week, said she had seen the Facebook post but that did not deter her from making the trip down.

"I'm definitely more alert here. As a parent, I will err on the side of caution. If anything happens to my child, I will regret it the rest of my life," she said.

Engineer Siow Chew Yong, 44, who was also at Legoland, said: "In general, we feel safe here. We will still keep an eye on our children, but not to the extent of holding their hands everywhere. So long as they are within our sight, that is fine."

Debunked hoaxes

Other hoaxes in recent years that have been debunked:

In 2013, a text message, which made its rounds, warned Singaporeans not to eat canned fruit manufactured in Thailand.

The message claimed these cans were contaminated by blood tainted with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore checked with the Royal Thai Embassy and found the message to be false.

In the same year, a text message caused panic among animal lovers.

The message said 1,000 dogs surrendered to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) would be put down.

SPCA said this was false. The text message was reportedly linked to an adoption drive by another animal welfare group, but got distorted along the way.

In 2012, postings on incidents of children being abducted and kidnapped were shared online or through text messaging. The posts detailed how people had tried to lure children away or abduct them from their strollers.

Police confirmed that there had been no reported case in which a child was abducted or kidnapped in such a way.

A Facebook post, which has been circulating, warns women not to attend to a crying boy carrying a piece of paper with an address.

The post claims this is a ploy by a group with the intent to lure women to the address and rape them. It stated that such incidences were "getting worse".

Police said there have been no reports relating to such a ploy.


This article was first published on June 29, 2015.
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