Fact Check

Whittier Carjacking Warning

E-mail warns about a carjacking attempt in Whittier, California?

Published Feb 6, 2009

Claim:   E-mail warns about a carjacking attempt in Whittier, California.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2009]

01/21/09 - I am sending this to all of you, per the advice of the Whittier Police.

Last night on my way home from work, I was followed off the freeway without realizing it. A lot of people take the Telegraph off ramp to go home. Then I turned left on Norwalk going north.

This Van pulled up on my right side and told me that my right rear tire was going flat and that I should pull over and let him put my spare on. I was only 2 miles from home and in an industrial area where no gas stations, etc. so told him NO THANKS, and kept going slow the rest of 20 the way home. When I got home I told Richard what had happened and he checked my tire. The tire was perfectly OK. That's when I realized what had happened and it scared me to death.

According to the Police there are allot of car jacking going on, then they rob you of everything (money, jewelry, etc) due to the economy. The best thing I could do was to let the gals at work know to be more than careful of their surroundings. It's happening all over So Cal, not just LA or Orange Counties.

Please my friends, be very careful out there.


Origins:   This January 2009 e-mailed warning about a carjacking attempt in Whittier (a

California city about 12 miles southeast of Los Angeles) is distinct from most Internet-forwarded crime warnings in that it's a first-person account rather than a third- or -fourth-hand retelling produced by someone with no direct connection to the events described. Its accuracy appears to be better than most such warnings, but like most such warnings it also evidently proclaims an exaggerated level of danger not warranted by the facts.

Certainly criminals' attempting to fool motorists into believing their cars are evidencing symptoms of potentially serious malfunctions (e.g., flat tire, excessive smoke, fire) as a means of getting those motorists to pull over and stop so that crimes (e.g., robbery, car theft, assault, rape) can be effected on them is a ruse that has been successfully used many times before. And the Whittier Police have acknowledged that "The originator of this email did in fact contact the Whittier Police Department to report the above facts and a report was taken."

However, the Whittier Police also noted that no link to criminal intent has yet been established for the reported incident, and that they did not (as stated in the e-mail) tell the person who filed the report that carjackings have been taking place "all over Southern California" in the manner described:

For clarification purposes, the Whittier Police Department did not advise the caller that "there are a lot of car jackings going on". The Department has not received any other reports that involve these sets of circumstances, which led to a car jacking.

While there is no definite way at this time to determine the true intent of the van driver, motorists are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the Whittier Police Department.


Last updated:   6 February 2009

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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