Verify: Is the Facebook post about Modesto mall "perfume" kidnappers real?

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A Facebook post recounting the harrowing experience of an attempted kidnapping at a mall in Modesto is making the rounds on social media.

“My coworkers friend just took her 15 year old daughter [sic] to the Modesto mall … the 15 year old said ‘mom I have to pee’ and never came back,” the post reads.

The post claims that the mother then went looking for her daughter and encountered two girls carrying her unconscious daughter out of the mall. When confronted, the girls claimed the woman’s daughter was their friend who had too much to drink. The two women then panicked and fled.

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The post goes on to say that when the daughter woke up, she told her mother that the women approached her in the restroom and offered to let her smell a perfume. The “perfume” is implied to have contained some kind of knock-out drug, as the post claims it immediately made the girl lose consciousness.

Modesto Police Department spokesperson Heather Graves said the post is not credible.

“Nothing was reported to us. We checked with the mall and nothing had been reported to them, either,” Graves said.

Graves said the post is a variation of an old internet hoax, which has since been debunked by Snopes.com.

The hoax is rooted in a 1999 incident in Mobile, Ala.

In 1999, 54-year-old Bertha Johnson claimed that a woman approached her on her way into a bank, where she was going to make a deposit of $800 on behalf of her employer. The woman offered to let her smell samples of cologne, but after taking a sniff Johnson instantly passed out and only regained consciousness hours later and miles from the bank, robbed of her money.

While the case remained open, toxicology reports showed no foreign substances in Johnson’s system.

Additionally, all the variations of the story are rooted in the idea that an inhaled soporific drug like ether or chloroform can render someone unconscious almost immediately — this isn’t the case.

Chloroform and ether can take several minutes of consistent inhalation before they have an effect, nullifying the idea that a single whiff can knock someone out.

So while it’s always a good idea to be alert, rest assured that this viral warning is nothing more than a new variation of a long-running hoax.

Verify sources:
Heather Graves, Modesto Police Department spokesperson

Verify resources:
Facebook post containing the claim
Read: Original press release from Mobile, Alabama incident
The Naked Scientists on the effectiveness of ether and chloroform