On 15 December 2016, Facebook user Bobbie Davis published a popular version of the above-reproduced warning, which asserted that two “bandits” were posing as gas company employees to falsely gain access to homes:
As is often the case, the warning was decoupled from its putative source (and often, the punchline photograph) with alacrity, and it began taking on localized elements (such as town names) and anecdotal commentary about residents’ supposed brushes with faux gas company “bandits.”
The two men depicted in the photograph were actually actors Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, in an image shared by Stern on Facebook on 21 December 2015 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1990 film Home Alone (which was followed by Home Alone 2 in 1992), a Christmas blockbuster in which Pesci and Stern played inept burglars named Harry and Marv:
Although the joke was obvious to a great many social media users, the quarter-century that had passed between the on-screen antics of Harry and Marv and the circulation of the warning in December 2016 somewhat blunted the obviousness of the joke for younger viewers, as did the fact that the image depicted two men as twenty-five years older than they were when Home Alone was a current box office hit:
Some social media users might have been too young to have seen the Home Alonefilms (a current 30-year-old would have been only five years old at the time of their release), others may not have looked too closely at the photograph and failed to recognize the famous faces, and several more may have seen the warning without its photographic punchline. In any event, the “gas company bandits” warning traversing Facebook was an obvious joke, and neither Pesci nor Stern were known to be posing as utilities workers or law enforcement agents to gain illicit access to homes and engage in banditry.