From elections to Super Bowls to natural disasters, nearly every major news event prompts a rash of internet hoaxes, conspiracy theories and unbelievable photos.
Hurricane Harvey is proving to be of no exception, serving as a target of hoaxes ranging from the ridiculous to the frightening.
Fortunately, investigators are researching these stories and doing their best to confirm if they are made up, either for entertainment purposes or to push a political agenda.
For instance, there is a widely-circulated photo showing an SUV rolling down one of Houston’s flooded freeways running side-by-side with an unlikely fellow traveler: a six-foot-long shark.
Shocking as it may be at first glance, the photo turned out to be nothing more than a digital manipulation posted by a Scottish journalist, thousands of miles away from the storm.
The image, which was taken from a 2005 issue of “Africa Geographic” magazine, is one repeatedly resurfacing during storms or hurricanes in the years since.
Houstonians spotted another shark in the flood waters, too:
The photo is also a fake, and appears to be of Katy Perry’s Left Shark, who you may remember flubbed his Super Bowl routine a few years ago.
Another hoax perpetrated closer to home involved the possibility of flood victims being targeted for deportation stemming from recent passage of SB 4.
Under the legislation, which is not fake, local law enforcement agencies work may with federal immigration authorities to identify and detain suspected undocumented immigrants unless they can produce paperwork showing their immigration status.
While the law goes into effect on Sept. 1, the Houston Police Department is following a different protocol:
The conflicting reports possibly persuaded some flood victims to stay away from rescue and relief efforts, especially those overseen by law enforcement officials, out of fear they would be deported, but the City of Houston posted their Tweet in both English and Spanish, and there are shelters open to all across the city.
Things are changing by the minute. If you or someone you know comes into information to share, please do not hesitate to contact our Rare Houston page via Facebook.
Read more about where to seek safety and how to help here.