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Paper-on-Rear-Window Carjacking Scheme

Netlore Archive


African woman in car adjusting mirror
Jose Luis Pelaez/Blend Images/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Viral rumor warns of a new carjacking scheme involving the placement of a flyer or piece of paper on the victim's rear window to fool them into exiting the vehicle with the engine running.

Description: Viral rumor
Circulating since: Feb. 2004
Status: FALSE (see details below)

Example #1:
As shared on Facebook, Feb. 6, 2013:

Heads-Up my Peeps.!... Hey Ya'll Please beware!..... A friend of ours daughter was coming out of Wal-Mart recently and while she was walking to her car she noticed that a couple of guys were "watching" her, she got into her car and locked her doors. As she was leaving she saw what appeared to be a $100.00 bill on her windshield, she was smart enough not to get out of her car at the time because she remember a email sent to her not that long ago about people putting something on your windshield and when the person gets out to retrieve it they are car jacked...... Here's a pic of the fake money.... please be careful and "SHARE" to protect the ones you love!

Example #2:
Email example contributed by Bob H., Nov. 18, 2008:

Subject: Warning from Police ---- No Joke!!!

Warning..!!!! Warning..!!!! Warning..!!!!

Just last weekend on Friday night we parked in a public parking area. As we drove away I noticed a sticker on the rear window of the car. When I took it off after I got home, it was a receipt for gas. Luckily my friend told me not to stop as it could be someone waiting for me to get out of the car. Then we received this email yesterday:



Heads up everyone! Please, keep this circulating... You walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside. You start the engine and shift into Reverse.

When you look into the rearview mirror to back out of your parking space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you shift into Park, unlock your doors, and jump out of your car 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 carjackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off. They practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.

And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car.

So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your whole identity are now compromised!


If you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, just drive away. Remove the paper later. And be thankful that you read this e-mail. I hope you will forward this to friends and family, especially to women. A purse contains all kinds of personal information and identification documents, and you certainly do NOT want this to fall into the wrong hands.

Please keep this going and tell all your friends.

Example #3:
Email example contributed by T. Amos, Feb. 23, 2004:

Subject: New car scheme -- read carefully mom

Be aware of new car-jacking scheme
Read, then forward this email - BE AWARE and BE SAFE
This just happened to a friend of my sister's -- so I am letting everyone know before it happens again.

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.

Analysis: It's plausible, could happen, and for all we know has happened -- but despite the fact that this viral warning has been in non-stop circulation since February 2004, I have yet to find even one published report confirming that incidents of this kind have actually taken place.

Police do warn drivers to be wary of strangers approaching with flyers, asking for directions, or using other pretexts to get close to a vehicle, but judging from the available data a typical carjacker is much more likely to flash a weapon and attempt to force you out of your car than to try to trick you into exiting of your own accord.

So, while it's prudent to take stock of this warning and keep it in mind as one method a carjacker might use to separate drivers from their vehicles, it's equally prudent to note that, like most viral warnings of its kind, its claims are unsubstantiated.

Whatever strategy a carjacker may employ, it's sure to include trying to take the victim by surprise. Much more important than worrying about whether or not to remove a piece of paper stuck to your rear window, therefore — in any situation where you may be vulnerable to theft or assault — is staying aware of your surroundings and taking note of who may be lurking in the vicinity as you enter or exit your automobile.

Update: A new version of this alert is circulating in the form of a scanned hard copy.

Common Carjacking Schemes (from the Columbus, Indiana Police Department):

  • Pretending to be a stranded motorist.
  • Faking a fender-bender accident or deliberately getting involved in an accident with the victim.
  • Approaching the victim while the victim is stopped at a traffic light.
  • Approaching a victim in shopping malls, private driveways, apartment complex parking lots.

Carjacking Precautions (courtesy of the Attorney General of Florida):

  • Keep doors locked and windows shut.
  • Don't stop to assist a disabled motorist. Instead contact a service station or police.
  • When stopped at a light, leave enough room between you and the car in front that you could make an escape.
  • Be suspicious of anyone approaching the car with fliers, asking for change or directions. Be ready to leave carefully, even if it means running a red light or stop sign.
  • While driving, if struck from behind or in any suspicious way, stay in your vehicle with the doors locked and windows closed until the police arrive. Activate your vehicle's emergency flashers.
  • If you're very suspicious, get the other vehicle's license number and drive to the nearest police station or a well-lighted area with lots of people.
  • If you think you are being followed, drive immediately to an area with lots of lights and people. If possible, drive to the nearest law enforcement office.
  • Obtain and use a cellular phone to call for help.

Sources and further reading:

Email Warning of New Carjacking Appears to Be Years Old Urban Legend
Crime Blog, Dallas Morning News, 20 October 2011

Council Member's Carjacking Email Debunked
Dallas.org, 16 December 2008

How to Prevent a Carjacking
Florida Attorney General's Office

Last updated: 04/25/13

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