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Lauren and the *677 Police Dispatch Cell Phone Number

Outline
Email forward describes how a young woman named Lauren avoided being raped by a police impostor in an unmarked car by dialling *677 on her cell phone.



Brief Analysis
While this message contains a grain of truth, it is also highly misleading and contains potentially dangerous misinformation. There are several versions of the message that are set in different parts of the world and that feature different emergency numbers. Forwarding this message is likely to do little more than perpetrate incorrect information that could potentially compromise the safety of recipients.

Detailed analysis and references below example.
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Last updated: 25th May 2010
First published: 14th February 2006
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: IMPORTANT INFO - PLEASE READ

IN CASE YOU DON'T ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THIS..................GUYS, PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO YOUR WIVES, DAUGHTERS, GIRLFRIENDS, CO-WORKERS, ETC.

MUST KNOW *677

I knew about the red light on cars, but not the *677. It was about 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and Lauren was driving to visit a friend. An UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put his lights on.

*Lauren's parents have always told them never to pull over for an unmarked car on the side of the road, but rather to wait until they get to a gas station, etc *

Lauren had actually listened to her parents advice, and promptly called 677 on her cell phone to tell the police dispatcher that she would not pull over right away She proceeded to tell the dispatcher that there was an unmarked police car with a flashing red light on his rooftop behind her. The dispatcher checked to see if there were police cars where she and there weren't, and he told her to keep driving, remain calm and that he had back up already on the way.

Ten minutes later 4 cop 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.

I never knew about the *677 Cell Phone Feature, but especially for a woman alone in a car, you should not pull over for an unmarked car. Apparently police have to respect your right to keep going to a safe&quiet place. You obviously need to make some signals that you acknowledge them (i.e. put on your hazard lights) or call *677 like Lauren did.

Too bad the cell phone companies don't generally give you this little bit of wonderful information.

*Speaking to a service representative at **Bell** Mobility confirmed that *677 was a direct link to State Police Dispatch. So, now it's your turn to let your friends know about *677.

Send this to every person you know; it may save a life.




Detailed Analysis
This widely circulated email forward tells the story of young Lauren, who thwarted a would-be rapist posing as a police officer in an unmarked car by dialling *677. Versions of the message also travel via blogs, forums and social networking websites. According to the message, *677 is a special number that connects mobile (cell) phone users directly to Police Dispatch. The message describes how, as a result of Lauren's "677" call, police were able to ascertain that the vehicle following her was not driven by a real police officer and subsequently arrest the impostor. Thus, Lauren was able to save herself from harm by having the good sense to check with police before pulling over for an unmarked vehicle.

However, the information about *677 is dangerously misleading. Dialling *677 may connect your cell phone to police if and only if you are located in Ontario, Canada. "677" is the numerical equivalent of "OPP", short for "Ontario Provincial Police". However, even in Ontario, this number is not guaranteed to connect you to police. Contact information on the OPP website notes:

©iStockphoto.com/Eric Hood

Girl with cell phone in car
The widely circulated story of "Lauren" and the unmarked police car is dangerously misleading and inaccurate
Cellular *OPP (Where available)

*OPP is a cellular feature provided by some cellular carriers and may not be available on all networks. Please contact your cellular provider to determine availability.
Unfortunately, the versions of the message that are currently circulating do not include any country specific information. The message claims that *677 is a special "Cell Phone Feature" and the implication is that this feature will work anywhere. This is clearly untrue. While it may sometimes work in certain regions of Canada, it certainly will not work elsewhere in the world. Moreover, even if the number does work for a person calling from the right region of Canada, it will not connect the call directly to "State Police Dispatch" as claimed in the message.

There have been several versions of this warning message set in different areas of the world. Some earlier versions advised recipients to call #77 rather than *677. However, this information is also highly misleading. #77 or *77 is an alternative emergency number in some American states but not others. Thus, unless you happen to be driving in one of the states that use these numbers, dialling #77 or a similar combination will not connect you to local emergency services.

As is often the case with such forwarded emails, it is difficult to determine if "Lauren" is a real person and the event described actually occurred. I could find no credible record of the particular incident described, although similar events have been reported. It must be said that our "Lauren" is certainly well-travelled. The lass features in several versions of the email variously set in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK an South Africa. Included details about her circumstances vary. At least with the later international versions of the message, "Lauren" and the particular incident described would best be viewed as anecdotal rather than factual.

Yet another version of the message lists the International Emergency Number (112) as the number "Lauren" used to contact police. It is true that, in many parts of the world, dialling '112' from a mobile phone will connect the caller to local emergency services. However, because '112' is primarily integrated with the GSM network, it may not always work if the phone is connected to another type of network such as 3G. Thus, it would always be wisest to use your country's primary emergency number in the first instance when dialling from both mobile and fixed phones. It should also be noted that, in the European Union, '112' is the emergency number for all Member States and will work from both mobile and fixed phones.

While the phone number information in the message is certainly misleading, it should be noted that crimes like the one described in the message have occurred in various places around the world. In fact, criminals have a long history of impersonating police officers in order to carry out rapes and other serious crimes. Thus, at least some of the information in this cautionary tale is worth heeding. Although we are normally obligated to obey the directions of a police officer, we certainly have the right to protect our personal safety if we have reason to believe that the officer could be an impostor. If a situation like the one described in the message occurs, drivers should signal their intention to comply and then drive to the nearest safe area before pulling over. After they have pulled over, drivers should keep car doors locked and windows up until they have determined that the person following is a real police officer. If drivers feel that it is necessary to make an emergency call to police about the issue, they should dial the main emergency number in their country.

In summary, the advice in the message about using caution with regard to unmarked police cars is worth heeding. However, the information about *677 (and #77) is misleading and potentially dangerous. Thus forwarding this email in its present form is likely to do little more than perpetrate incorrect information that could potentially compromise the safety of recipients. In an emergency, every second counts, and delays caused by the failure to contact emergency personnel because the wrong number was used could be life threatening.

Another version of the hoax:
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. Awareness is everything!


Bookmark and Share References:
Ontario Provincial Police
Highway Notification Numbers
Calling the Emergency Call Service from a mobile phone: FAQs
Highway Notification Numbers

Last updated: 25th May 2010
First published: 14th February 2006
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer