#77 (or *77) Emergency Cell Phone Feature
By David Emery
Netlore Archive: Female college student pulled over in her car by a cop-impersonating would-be rapist is rescued by a real officer after dialing #77 (or *77) on her cell phone.
Description: Forwarded email / Viral text
Circulating since: March 2002
Status: Mixed (see details below)
Email text contributed by S. Bennett, March 6, 2002:
This is an actual true story and not one of those Internet stories that are passed on and on. This actually happened to one of my dearest new friend's daughter. Her daughter, Lauren, is 19 yrs. old and a sophomore in college. This happened to her over the Christmas/New Year's holiday break.
It was the Saturday before New Year's and it was about 1 pm in the afternoon. Lauren was driving from here (Winchester, Va.) to visit a friend in Warrenton. For those of you who are familiar with the area, she was taking Rt. 50 East towards Middleburg and then was going to cut over to I-66 via Rt. 17. Those of you who aren't familiar with this area, Rt. 50 East is a main road (55 mph and two lanes each side with a big median separating East/West lanes), but is somewhat secluded, known for it's big horse farms and beautiful country estates.
Lauren was actually following behind a state police car shortly after she left Winchester and was going just over 65 mph since she was following behind him. An UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put his lights on. My friend and her husband have 4 children (high school and college age) and have always told them never to pull over for an unmarked car on the side of the road, but rather wait until they get to a gas station, etc. So Lauren actually listened to her parents advice, and promptly called #77 on her cell phone to tell the dispatcher that she would not pull over right away. She proceeded to tell the dispatcher that there were 2 police cars, one unmarked behind her and one marked in front of her. The dispatcher checked to confirm that there were 2 police cars where she was. There wasn't and she was connected to the policeman in front of her. He told her to keep driving, remain calm and that he had back-up already on the way.
Ten minutes later, 4 police cars surrounded her and the unmarked car behind her. One policeman went to her side and the others surrounded the car behind. They pulled the guy from the car and tackled him to the ground ... the man was a convicted rapist and wanted for other crimes. Thank God Lauren listened to her parents! She was shaken up, but fine.
I never knew that bit of advice, but especially for a woman alone in a car, you should NEVER pull over for an unmarked car in a secluded area. In fact, even a marked car after dark should follow you to a populated area. Apparently police have to respect your right to keep going to a "safe" place. You obviously need to make some signals that you acknowledge them (i.e., put on your hazard lights) or call #77 like Lauren did.
I am so thankful that my friend was sitting at our book club meeting telling us this scary story, rather than us at her house consoling her had something tragic occurred!
Be safe and pass this on to your friends. Prayer Awareness is everything.
Analysis: From the secondhand attribution "This actually happened to one of my dearest new friend's daughter" to the unlikely coincidence the would-be victim just happening to be behind a real police car when the phony one tries to pull her over to the cautionary advice "NEVER pull over for an unmarked car in a secluded area" this story bears every hallmark of an urban legend. It also contains a few elements of fact.
I've been unable to confirm that this exact incident actually happened, but I did find news reports from around the U.S. detailing similar crimes and attempted crimes including rape perpetrated by drivers impersonating police officers in unmarked cars.
Some police departments do, therefore, recommend using caution if you're pulled over by an unmarked vehicle in a secluded area after dark. You should communicate your intention to stop by slowing down and turning on emergency flashers or a turn signal, they suggest, then drive to the nearest well-lit, populated area before stopping. If you're still suspicious, keep your doors locked and only partially roll down your window when the officer approaches. Ask to see a badge and photo I.D.
Using your cell phone to contact a police dispatcher (as advised in the email) is also an option, but be aware that the "dial #77" or "dial *77" option does not work in every state. If you aren't sure, dial 911 instead. (Contact your local/state police or the American Automobile Association for specific information about emergency cell phone numbers in your area.)
2004 Update: Ontario, Canada Version Same story, but in this variant we are told that Lauren dialed *677 to reach the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police).
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Sources and further reading:
Police Search for Fake Cops
From NewsChannel5.com, Nashville, TN, 14 August 2001
APD Cautions Public of Possible Officer Impersonators
Austin Police Department press release, 15 June 2001
Women Warned of Rapist Posing as Cop
Brown County Democrat, 3 March 1999
Mobile Emergency Numbers
State-by-state, from 911dispatch.com
Last updated: 04/22/02