In January 2022, a "police bulletin" hoax circulated on social media, primarily Facebook, that claimed people were going door to door to hand out masks that were doused with chemicals.
If this sounds familiar to some readers, it's because this hoax was not new.
In April 2020, we published another fact check that debunked the same claim. However, one thing seemed to be different with the resurgence of the old hoax in January 2022: the addition of the words "police bulletin." While "police bulletin" did appear in a partial amount of the posts from 2020, the 2022 version of the old hoax seemed to include those two words the vast majority of the time.
Here's what most of the posts said:
Good evening! FYI...Message from the Police Department
People are going door to door handing out masks, they say it's a new initiative from local government. They will always ask you to please put it on to see if it fits you. It has been doused with chemicals which knocks you out cold and once you're knocked out they proceed to rob you.
Please do not accept masks from strangers.
Remember, we are living in critical times and people are desperate to take advantage with the aim of making money. Crime rate has skyrocketed, so please be cautious and stay safe!
Please send to all your friends, colleagues and loved ones so as to help them stay vigilant in this adverse situation.
Remember, sharing is caring!
None of this was true. The message was not a real police bulletin. As we previously noted in our April 2020 fact check, the message was vague on location details. This likely was the reason that it was able to become so viral, since it could be applied to any city or state.
Some versions of the hoax did mention specific locations, such as one that claimed it was from the Pine Bluff Police Department in Arkansas. Local police put out a real bulletin about the bogus message.
This old copypasta likely came back again after U.S. President Joe Biden's administration announced that the U.S. Postal Service would deliver free at-home COVID-19 tests to American households. At the same time, the White House also said that it would "begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans" that could soon be picked up at pharmacies and community centers.
The lesson from this hoax and many just like it was that social media posts that lack attribution have a chance of being misleading. It's always recommended to use a search engine or credible news websites to verify whether a post contains truth before deciding to share it.
In sum, no, people were not going door to door to hand out masks that were doused with chemicals, as claimed by the fake "police bulletin."