Carjacker Strategy: Place Paper On Your Rear Window

Status: Theoretically could happen (though there's no solid evidence it ever has)
You may have received this email warning recently:

Imagine: You walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside. Then you lock all your doors, start the engine and shift into REVERSE. Habit!
You look into the rear-view window to back out of your parking space and you notice a piece of paper, some sort of advertisement stuck to your rear window. So, you shift into PARK, unlock your doors and jump out of your vehicle to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view... when you reach the back of your car, that is when the car-jackers jump out of no where ... jump into your car and take off -- your engine was running, your purse is in the car, and they practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.
Just drive away and remove the paper that is stuck to your window later and be thankful that your read this email and that you forwarded it to your friends.

I got it and dismissed it as a hoax, given its similarity to the false warning about people trying to sell perfume in parking lots. (They supposedly get you to sniff the perfume which is really ether and knocks you out.) But an article in the Mercury News notes that it might be worth paying attention to the paper-on-the-rear-window warning. They interview a California Highway Patrol officer who says:

I have heard of this a few times, and it is true. What makes it popular among car thieves is that it's non-confrontational (no gun or threat needed) which equals a lesser fine or sentence if they're caught. And it's a lot easier than traditional methods. Your readers should definitely heed this advice to drive away.

David Emery notes that the warning might be a bit overblown, but also cautions that: "Much more important than worrying about whether or not to remove a piece of paper stuck to your windshield, therefore — in any situation where you might be vulnerable to a carjacking — is being aware of your surroundings and taking note of who may be lurking nearby as you enter or exit your automobile."

Email Hoaxes Law/Police/Crime

Posted on Thu Jan 26, 2006


You must be losing your research skills Alex.
Posted by Andrew Nixon  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  04:41 PM
Carjackers are way smarter than we give them credit for. I think I might try this sometime, but have someone film it so it looks like a reality show.
Posted by Dracul  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  05:08 PM
Hey, all I'm saying is that a CHP officer is now on record as saying that it's worth paying attention to.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  05:10 PM

If, as Mike the CHP man says, it's actually happened and is even a "popular" technique among car theives, then why are there NO news stories of any such incidents and no official police department pronouncements on the subject other than denials?
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  06:24 PM
I doubt this would actually work the way it's described above anyway.

As described above, you would be approaching your car from the rear, and so would probably notice anything stuck to the rear window as you walked towards it.
Posted by Andrew Nixon  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  06:29 PM
Andrew Nixon, you just ruined my entire dream! I'm so upset. Sheeesh, can't a girl have her own delusions?
Posted by Dracul  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  07:20 PM
But what if it was dark, or very poorly lit? Then you may not notice something stuck on your rear window until you were inside and beginning to back up. I think snopes might be assuming that carjackers would try this in broad daylight, in which case it obviously wouldn't work. In fact, it's such a simple trick, it would seem surprising if someone hadn't tried it, at some time.

Anyway, the basic advice seems sound. If you're in this situation where you notice a piece of paper stuck on your rear window, maybe it wouldn't be such a great idea to assume that no carjackings ever happen this way, and so get out of your car to remove it. Though the odds are that you're never going to find a piece of paper stuck to your rear window.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  08:21 PM
...Unless you have a wiper on your rear window, how would it get ON the rear window?? I just swish my wipers to get rid of adverts. (I also have a rear wiper.) Not to mention, I have a stationwagon - and I open up the rear hatch (including the window) to put things away.
Posted by Maegan  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  08:50 PM
It COULD happen, but the e-mail warning that's been going around tells people that it IS in fact happening a lot. Like it's the latest fad among car-jackers.

It's not, so I think the e-mail should be labelled hoax (or hoax warning or whatever the category is).
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  09:22 PM
What if the peice of paper were a note with some information of particular value to you.

Since there are no examples of a car-jacking happening in this manner, it's equally probable.
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  09:32 PM
It seems to me people who wait around to steal a car do it because they don't want it known they have stolen the car. With this method the theft is reported right away, and with cell phones, before the thief can even leave the area. So this would be a bad way to steal a car for it's joyriding allure or to take it to a chop shop. Car jackings are done violently because the car is required RIGHT NOW! for escape from police or rivals, or whatever. So clearly a person that needs a car "right now" is not going to lay a trap. But I don't know the actual stats maybe I'm wrong, just a thought.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  10:00 PM
If people were going to give you paper, they would put it on your front windshield. Back would seem a little strange. But anyways, there would have to be car jackers nearby. Also, they would have to sit around and wait for you to get back. And it would have to be someplace where no one else is. And rather dark. It just doesn't seem to make sense.
Posted by Razela  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  10:00 PM
Even though nobody has found any cases of this having happened, it could still work. I know that many people get into their car without ever actually really looking at it, and so would miss seeing something stuck to their rear window. I knew a guy who got into his car without noticing that a tractor-trailer had scraped long the driver's side, removing the side-view mirror and most of the paint.

The important thing, as has been mentioned, is just to be aware of what's going on around you. Before you go leaving your car with the engine running, look to see that there isn't likely to be somebody lurking. That's good advice even if you're just walking up to your car, or walking down the sidewalk.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  10:02 PM
..If the person has put everything in the car, they would NOT have their cell phone with would be sitting in the front seat, or in the center console, Lonewatchman.
Posted by Maegan  on  Fri Jan 27, 2006  at  09:22 AM
I have this nasty urge to run around putting pieces of paper on people's rear windows. Maybe I can help perpetuate this story. 😛
Posted by Charybdis  on  Fri Jan 27, 2006  at  09:51 AM
Many people carry their cell phones on their hips.
Posted by dae dae  on  Fri Jan 27, 2006  at  01:22 PM
I understand many women carry their phones in their purse, which would remain in the car when stolen. And even men who carry them on their hips may remove them in the car. But that still means the crook who set this up and waited all day is not gambling on you leaving your phone. Additionally finding another person nearby with a cell phone is pretty easy even in the dead of night.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Sat Jan 28, 2006  at  01:01 AM
Ran into an old work collegue this morning, which reminded me of what happened when this e-mail went round the office where I was working in June 2004.

For about 2 months afterwards, the woman who sent it round the office had pieces of paper on her car's rear window every single night when she went home.
Posted by Andrew Nixon  on  Sat Jan 28, 2006  at  09:29 AM
Yes but the question is, did she ever NOT see any one of those pieces of paper prior to getting in the car? Still a great joke though....2 months LOL.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Sat Jan 28, 2006  at  02:23 PM
Another carjacking strategy you should watch out for is someone putting a gun to your head and demanding the car keys. I hear that's even more common than the "piece of paper on the back window" ploy.
Posted by Big Gary in a bad neighborhood  on  Mon Jan 30, 2006  at  04:33 PM
/\ word.
Posted by oat  on  Thu Feb 16, 2006  at  07:32 AM
I received this just the other day from someone and it is just not plausible. 1> It would require the would be thief to hang around and most places do have laws against loitering. Just staying in the same area for a long period of time will draw attention and that is NOT what a carjacker will want. 2> Personally, I have gotten into the habbit of checking my car for this type of junk before I get in. Where I work, we have those leaflets stuck to our constantly and it is under the wipers, as there is nothing to attach it to on the back. 3> Even if you get far enough away from the door, AND leave it open, while removing the offending item, they still run the risk of hitting you with your own car and that is just as bad as using a knife or a gun. 4> Just because some CHP officer states it, does not make it true. We have people in much higher places that misrepresent facts all the time.
Posted by Lounge Lizard  on  Fri Jul 21, 2006  at  07:34 AM
I recently received this e-mail from a friend about car jackers placing paper in the rear window. I immediately thought it was a hoax and did my usual search online to find out. Every "hoax" site stated this e-mail was false. However, I found the article from Lieutenant Tony Bartolome on page 2 of the Essex County Sheriff
Posted by Shay  on  Thu Apr 26, 2007  at  09:59 AM
This is a fake. And--think about it logically, if you are in a parking lot, head-in, you approach your vehicle from the rear and would have seen and removed the paper before you got into the vehicle. Totally contrived and ridiculous.

Be careful and cautious--don't spread hyped-up e-mails that are fraudulent.
Posted by Lois  on  Mon Oct 29, 2007  at  12:54 PM
I just finished reading all the letters re: paper in rear window of auto. I only looked this up to verify if it was a hoax or not. I really enjoyed all the different aspects regarding it, and now will forward it and at the same time the receipients will be able to judge for them selves.
Posted by Ron Freemyer  on  Wed Nov 26, 2008  at  08:21 PM
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