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Thieves Leave Women Naked in Restrooms Hoax

Summary:
Email warns that thieves with guns are forcing women to strip naked in shopping mall restrooms in order to steal valuables and escape before the victims can raise the alarm.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, March 2006)
From the AP news wire.

Don't be surprised to see a naked woman walking out of a shopping mall restroom: The latest scam being perpetrated in our nations shopping malls is not the cost of gourmet ice cream cones or Harry Potter collectible figurines. With what is being called amazing regularity, victims of this new crime wave have been found walking out of shopping mall restrooms completely naked. This has almost always been done by men to women, with a few exceptions.

The way the scam works is, a man slips into a women's restroom and sneaks into a stall. He waits until there is only one woman in the restroom in a neighboring stall. The criminal then stands on the toilet and points a hand gun into the next stall, demanding the woman's valuables. After getting her cash and jewelry, he demands that she remove all of her clothing and kick them out of the stall. The th! ief tosses the clothing into a shopping bag, hangs an out of order sign on the restroom door, and slips back into the mall. The out of order sign ensures no one will soon come to the woman's rescue. It usually takes an hour or two for the woman to work up the nerve to leave the restroom in the nude, giving the criminal ample time to make his get away. The woman is left naked and humiliated in a mall full of strangers.

The best defense, say police, is to never go into a shopping mall restroom alone, as only women who are by themselves are targeted. PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW. This has so far been a nearly perfect crime, as none of the perpetrators have been caught. Don't let this happen to another woman.

Commentary:
This emailed "warning" has been circulating since 2002. The message claims that brazen thieves are forcing female shoppers to strip naked in shopping mall restrooms before absconding with any valuables the women may have had with them.

In a rather lame attempt to convince recipients that the message is a legitimate news story, it claims to be "from the AP news wire". However, searches reveal no genuine Associated Press (AP) articles on the subject. In fact, there are no news stories about these supposed crimes at all from any news network. The message refers to the incidents as a "crime wave" and claims that they are occurring with "amazing regularity". However, if such crimes were really occurring all the time, they would almost certainly be regularly reported on news websites, in newspapers and on television.

Like many other "warnings" of this nature, the message does not include any checkable references to back up its claims nor does it mention the names of places in which the alleged crimes have taken place. The questionable grammar and spelling in the message is another strong indication that it is not a genuine news article.

A number of hoaxes and urban legends have a decidedly sexist undertone and tend to portray women as rather weak and helpless victims that are both violated and then often rescued by stronger male characters. It seems apparent that the (probably quite immature and male) writer of this hoax envisages women as especially vulnerable to the crime described because it will take them a long time to "work up the nerve" to seek help. This is of course, nonsense. Naked or not, most women would probably not wait an hour or more before seeking help. Even if a victim was too embarrassed to walk out into the mall itself, she could at least open the restroom door a crack and call for help. In a typically crowded shopping mall, her calls for help would be unlikely to go unheeded for long.

Also, even with an "Out of Order" sign in place, it seems unlikely that no one at all would enter the restrooms for over an hour. In my experience (as a cleaner) there will always be at least a few people who ignore "Closed for Cleaning" and "Out of Order" signs and carry on regardless. Thus it seems quite unlikely that a woman victimized in the way described would go for "an hour or two" without actively seeking help or having help come to her.

Could such a crime occur? Possibly, and perhaps, somewhere in the world, at some time, a similar incident has actually happened. However, there is no evidence at all to support the claims that the robberies are so common that they can be considered a crime wave. Nor can the message be considered a legitimate AP news report, as it is quite clearly not the genuine article. Forwarding this false warning message will serve no good purpose.