A hoax urging service station customers to exercise caution when pumping gas appeared first on the Internet in early June 2000:
[Collected via e-mail, 2000]
My name is Captain Abraham Sands of the Jacksonville, Florida Police Department. I have been asked by state and local authorities to write this email in order to get the word out to car drivers of a very dangerous prank that is occurring in numerous states.
Some person or persons have been affixing hypodermic needles to the underside of gas pump handles. These needles appear to be infected with HIV positive blood. In the Jacksonville area alone there have been 17 cases of people being stuck by these needles over the past five months. We have verified reports of at least 12 others in various states around the country.
It is believed that these may be copycat incidents due to someone reading about the crimes or seeing them reported on the television. At this point no one has been arrested and catching the perpetrator(s) has become our top priority.
Shockingly, of the 17 people who where stuck, eight have tested HIV positive and because of the nature of the disease, the others could test positive in a couple years.
Evidently the consumers go to fill their car with gas, and when picking up the pump handle get stuck with the infected needle. IT IS IMPERATIVE TO CAREFULLY CHECK THE HANDLE of the gas pump each time you use one. LOOK AT EVERY SURFACE YOUR HAND MAY TOUCH, INCLUDING UNDER THE HANDLE.
If you do find a needle affixed to one, immediately contact your local police department so they can collect the evidence.
PLEASE HELP US BY MAINTAINING A VIGILANCE AND BY FORWARDING THIS EMAIL TO ANYONE YOU KNOW WHO DRIVES. THE MORE PEOPLE WHO KNOW OF THIS THE BETTER PROTECTED WE CAN ALL BE.
[Collected via e-mail, 2006]
East Coast – Warning!
In Florida and other places on the East Coast a group of people are putting HIV/AIDS infected and filled needles underneath gas pump handles, so when someone reaches to pick it up and put gas in their car, they get stabbed with it. 16 people have been a victim of this crime so far and 10 tested HIV positive. Instead of posting that stupid crap about how your love life will suck for years to come of you don’t re-post, post this. It’s important to inform people, even if you don’t drive, a family member might, and what if they were next? CHECK UNDER THE HANDLE BEFORE YOU GRAB IT!!! IT MIGHT SAVE YOUR LIFE! Tell as many people as you can about this serious issue!
[Collected via Facebook, January 2013]
IN Florida and other places on the East Coast a groups of people are putting HIV/AIDS infected and filled needles underneath gas pump handles, so when someone reaches to pick it up and put gas in their car, they get stabbed with it. 16 people have been a victim of this crime so far and 10 tested HIV positive. Instead of posting that stupid crap about how your love life will suck for years to come if yo udon’t re-post, post this. It’s important to inform people, even if you don’t drive, a family member might, and what if they were next? CHECK UNDER THE HANDLE)
In common with other AIDS-infected needle scares (e.g., syringe attacks in movies houses and dance clubs and contaminated needles in payphone coin returns), this rumor plays upon our fear of contracting a dread disease through the pursuit of ordinary and harmless activities.
There is no Abraham Sands with the Jacksonville Police Department: someone just invented a name to make this “warning” look authoritative. No newspaper stories from that city made any mention of Sands, which is unusual (to say the least) about a department’s spokesperson; Jacksonville is served by a sheriff’s office, not a police department; a phone call to the Jacksonville Sheriff produced the response that they’d never heard of Abraham Sands; and he wasn’t listed with the rest of the personnel on the City of Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office web site. No news stories out of Florida confirmed the e-mail’s claim that 17 people had been injured by these attacks, the City of Jacksonsville Sheriff’s Office said the whole thing was a hoax, and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta stated they were not aware of any cases where HIV had been transmitted by a needle-stick injury outside of a health care setting:
Besieged with phone calls and electronic mail, officials in Jacksonville are trying to quell an e-mail hoax that claims hypodermic needles concealed in gas pumps are responsible for spreading the virus that causes AIDS.The Sheriff’s Office has received more than 1,000 phone calls and e-mails from people around the country trying to confirm the information.
The e-mail, titled “A dangerous prank going around,” is purported to be from a “Capt. Abraham Sands” with the “Jacksonville Police Department.”
The Sheriff’s Office has never had a Capt. Abraham Sands and has no idea where the message originated. Also, there have been no reports of needles hidden in gas pumps, said John Turner, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office. And the Jacksonville Police Department ceased to exist in 1968 when it was merged with the Sheriff’s Office as part of consolidation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have no reported cases of AIDS from needle-stick injury to anyone outside the health care field.
People are also calling the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, whose small staff answered about 200 phone calls on Tuesday alone. Because police is part of the fund’s name, people from as far away as California are calling, assuming it is part of the police department in Jacksonville.
The Sheriff’s Office intelligence unit also has looked into the Internet message to see if anything could be done to stop the rumor. The message is a nuisance but not illegal, Turner said.
“We live in a world now where crazy things happen and people want some assurance,” said spokesman Harry Reagan.
Although there have been a few isolated reports of copycat pranksters leaving needles in public places (including gas pumps, such as an incident in May 2017) in the wake of this hoax, none of those incidents has involved a needle bearing any traces of HIV. No matter how it is reworded, the “Captain Abraham Sands” message is naught but anotherhoax dreamed up by someone intent upon enjoying the sight of people thrown into a panic over nothing.
- 25 May 2017, 3:00 P.M.: Added clarification that the May 2017 incident reported in Moreno Valley is currently under investigation by law enforcement.
Chapin, Veronica. “Calls About E-Mail Hoax Flood Sheriff’s Office.”
The Florida Times-Union. 22 June 2000.
Eisley, Matthew. “E-Mail Hoax, Subsequent Callers Impede N.C. State Bar’s Work.”
The [Raleigh] News and Observer. 22 June 2000 (p. B1).
KVOA-TV [Tucson, AZ]. “Woman Pricked by Hidden Needle.”
27 March 2007.
United Press International. “E-Mail Hoax Keeps Florida Deputies Busy.”
22 June 2000.