In the first three days after it was launched, Bulgaria’s new missing child helpline has received more than 1700 calls – but only one was genuine and all the rest hoax calls, it emerged on December 7 2012.
The number 116 000 is staffed by young psychologists who not only take down details of missing children but also offer counselling and assistance in parents of missing children getting legal advice. The psychologists underwent special training before taking up their duties.
The line is open 24 hours a day and calls to it are free.
But the line has been inundated with people calling up to joke, make fake reports and generally waste the time of operators, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said.
The Nadya Centre, which runs the phone line, said that it was now taking steps to bar those who made hoax calls.
The centre’s executive director, Dr Rossanka Venelinova, said that anyone making a hoax call for the third or fourth time would have their number barred and in the event of genuinely needing the services of the centre would not be able to get through.
One of the operators, Yoana Nedyalkova, said that she had taken a call from a person who was pretending to cry and claimed that their child was missing.
“These are terrible situations from a human perspective and I do not think that you have to tempt fate that way. This is a serious matter and not the subject for humour,” she said.
BNT said that the centre advised parents to be more careful during the holidays because it was a time that saw an increase in children getting lost in shopping centres.
In recent weeks, Bulgaria also has seen a spate of hoax calls, of fake bomb threats, at a number of schools in Sofia and at some of the capital city’s shopping malls.
(Photo: Manu Mohan, manumohan.com)