State official falls for urban legend, issues scam warning


ABC News:

Authorities in Maryland have warned the public about a potential holiday scam that involves the temptation of a $100 bill left on a car windshield.

The simple scheme works like this: Drivers walk to their parked cars and, after they get in the vehicle, they notice a $100 bill in the windshield. The driver exits the car with the door open to retrieve it, only to have a thief steal the vehicle.

Karen Straughn, Maryland Assistant Attorney General – Consumer Protection, wants the public to be aware of it, as reported by ABC affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington. Straughn said an unknown resident, during a public information safety session in Baltimore County, informed her of one incident, but Straughn said she has not seen a police report about it.

Here’s what Snopes, who rates it “False” has to say:

In November 2014, Washington, D.C., television station WJLA ran a muddled news report about a new satellite office of the Maryland attorney general issuing a warning about “carjackers” or “scammers” (they couldn’t decide which) leaving $100 bills (or fakes that look like $100 bills, they weren’t clear which) under the windshield wipers of cars parked at malls and then taking off with those vehicles when their drivers exit them to snatch the money. But again, the whole news story was based on nothing more than someone at the attorney general’s office saying they had “gotten reports of scammers in Maryland leaving $100 bills on windshields” and provided no documented instance of such a crime actually having taken place. (The Maryland attorney general’s office has yet to respond to our request for verification that any such carjackings have occurred.) Quite possibly what’s being reported is yet another instance of unknown persons leaving realistic-looking fake money on cars as a prank or an advertising gimmick, with no intent to steal those vehicles.

Straughn isn’t letting the facts get in the way of her fear-mongering in the story:

Straughn said she is aware that the scam is touted online as an urban legend, but she wants to warn the public as a precautionary measure.

The story notes police in Prince George’s County and Baltimore County have not seen this and there is no record of it taking place. Thanks to the national coverage this story is going viral with the presumed authority of the office of outgoing Attorney General Doug Gansler attached to it (through an Assistant AG) to give it credibility. This isn’t even a new story as Snopes points out. It is irresponsible for the state of Maryland to spread a falsehood just to get media attention.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton is an award-winning blogger who has been aggregating and blogging since 1998. He has worked as a reporter, in government, and as a communications professional in Columbia, SC and Washington, DC.

Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.

Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.
Jeff Quinton