Claim: Thieves follow buyers from electronics stores and steal merchandise from their cars.
Origins: In January 2010, police in Manhattan Beach (a Los Angeles community of approximately 34,000 residents, where the median home price is $1.5 million) reported that a ring of thieves had been targeting shoppers leaving the Apple Store in that city, then breaking into those customers' vehicles at their next stops to steal the newly-bought merchandise.
Said Manhattan Beach police Detective Sgt. Brian Brown, "In many of these crimes, customers have purchased a computer, put it in their vehicle and then driven to another location, leaving their computer inside the vehicle. When they return to their vehicle, the victims find that their cars have been burglarized and their computers have been stolen. They are definitely being followed. We know that for a fact."
Authorities suspect the follow-away burglaries are the work of a larger ring that has stolen more than 100 computers from the Los Angeles area in a string of "follow-away" burglaries that have been noted since September 2009. Three persons have been arrested so far in connection with dozens of cases involving the targeting of Apple Store and Best Buy customers in three different southern California counties.
While selecting victims based on their purchases and then trailing them until they leave their booty unattended might be a type of crime mostly limited to a specific group of criminals operating in the Los Angeles area for now, the cautions imparted to consumers everywhere by these reports are noteworthy.
You should pay especial attention to your surroundings when purchasing big-ticket items, keeping in mind that displays of wealth can attract attentions of the
felonious sort. Just as you would not flash large sums of cash in public, be wary about carting expensive merchandise about — when you're carrying a box or bag that proudly announces via its signage that you've just dropped hundreds of dollars on the purchase of its easily fenceable contents, keep an eye out for those who may be taking a particular interest in you and your prize. (If you're shopping alone, you might want to have someone from the store you've just patronized accompany you to your vehicle and stay with you until your purchase has been stowed inside and you're safely on your way.)
Also, if you must make additional stops after completing such purchases, do not leave your hard-won spoils on display in the passenger compartment of your car where anyone who so much as glances into your vehicle cannot help but notice them. Hide your new belongings by securing them from prying eyes in the trunk or
by throwing something (like a sweatshirt) over them.
Barbara "hidden assets" Mikkelson
Last updated: 10 January 2010
Blankstein, Andrew. "Apple Store Visitors Targeted."
Los Angeles Times. 8 January 2010 (p. A3) .
City News Service. "Burglars Target Apple Products Customers."
7 January 2010.
San Jose Mercury News. "'Follow-Away' Thefts Reported by Customers of L.A.-Area Apple Store."
founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
Thank you for writing to us! Although we receive hundreds of e-mails every day, we really and truly read them all, and your comments, suggestions, and questions are most welcome. Unfortunately, we can manage to answer only a small fraction of our incoming mail.
Our site covers many of the items currently being plopped into inboxes everywhere, so if you were writing to ask us about something you just received, our search engine can probably help you find the very article you want.
Choose a few key words from the item you're looking for and click here to go to the search engine.
(Searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches because the text of many items is quite variable, so picking out one or two key words is the best strategy.)
We do reserve the right to use non-confidential material sent to us via this form on our site, but only after it has been stripped of any information that might identify the sender or any other individuals not party to this communication.