Widespread social media message purporting to be a warning from NSW police claims that criminals are placing tiny tracking devices on cars and then using the devices to locate victims at their homes and attack and rob them.
The supposed warning is certainly not an official police notification as claimed and NSW Police have dismissed the message as a hoax. There are no credible reports of such crimes occurring in Australia. Bizarrely, the “warning” uses the signature of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling rather than the NSW police commissioner as claimed. Sharing this fake warning will help nobody.
This message, which has been circulating rapidly on Facebook since at least December 2012, warns readers that criminals are now using tiny tracking devices placed on cars as a means of locating and attacking victims in their homes.
The message, which is couched as an official warning from then NSW Police Commissioner Andrew P Scipione, relates an incident in which criminals attacked and robbed a Sydney woman in her home after placing a tracking device on her car at a shopping center.
The message claims that such crimes have been reported in other Australian cities as well as Sydney and have been reported via TV news outlets. The document, billed as a “Warning to the Public”, includes a police logo as well as the supposed signature of Commissioner Scipione.
However, the message is certainly not an official police warning and there are no credible reports about such crimes occurring in Sydney or elsewhere in Australia. In fact, NSW Police have dismissed the warning as a hoax and have asked that people do not share the false information it contains. A December 12, 2012, Sydney Morning Herald article about the hoax explains:
But NSW Police say the letter is a hoax “designed to create unnecessary fear in our community”.
“The incident reported is, to the best knowledge of NSW Police, entirely fictitious and the Police Commissioner has not penned any warning message,” NSW Police said. “The signature is not his.”
“NSW Police urges social media users not to share the hoax document.”
In a bizarre twist, the signature included in the hoax message belongs not to Commissioner Scipione as claimed but rather to Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling. Apparently, the creator of the hoax took the signature from a graphic hosted on Wikipedia. It is unclear why the perpetrator chose to create such a hoax.
While the advice in the message to “stay vigilant” is worth heeding, circulating false information about supposed criminal activities is counterproductive and will not help anybody.
This fake warning is reminiscent of an earlier hoax message that falsely claimed that a free key holder being handed out at petrol stations contained a hidden device that was subsequently used by criminals to track the movements of potential victims.