FactCheck Social Media

Story about an unmarked police car and calling “112” has been around the block a few times

2020-05-12 15:48:56

The Statement

A Facebook post is gaining attention with a frightening tale about a woman who was supposedly followed by a fake unmarked police vehicle but escaped danger by remembering a warning from her parents. 

The May 5 Facebook post claims all “AUSTRALIAN FEMALES” need to be told a story about “Chloe”, who was purportedly driving on a Queensland road “when an UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put its lights on”. 

The post goes on to say that Chloe’s parents had “told her never to pull over for an unmarked car on the side of the road,” but wait until she could pull over at a “service station, police station or even a McDonalds”. 

According to the story, Chloe dials “112” on her phone and is connected to an emergency dispatcher and explains her situation. The dispatcher then tells Chloe “to keep driving, remain calm and that he has “back-up already on the way”. 

The story concludes with four police cars surround Chloe’s car and the unmarked car. When police grab the occupant of the unmarked car he is revealed to be “a convicted rapist and wanted for other crimes”. 

The post states “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”.

The post finally claims: “Let your friends know about 112 (112 is an emergency number on your mobile that takes you straight to the police because 000 does not work if you have no signal).”

The May 5 Facebook post has been shared over 19,000 times, attracted over 3,500 comments and been viewed over 2.1m times.

Screenshot of Facebook post
 A post tells a tale of “Chloe” escaping danger by dialling 112 when tailed by a fake police car. 

The Analysis

The post claims “Chloe” was “driving to visit a friend at Southport”, which is on Queensland’s Gold Coast, from Toombul, a suburb of the Queensland capital Brisbane.

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) told AAP FactCheck the Queensland the story in the May 5 Facebook post is a hoax which has been repeated in various forms on the internet.

“We have had enquiries relating to the story from back in 2015,” the QPS spokesperson said in response to an email inquiry.

AAP FactCheck has found other versions of the story circulating in the early to mid-2000s. US fact-checkers Snopes investigated a similar story about “Lauren” from Virginia in the United States. The article also mentions a version of the story which was translated into an Australian setting. 

The QPS spokesperson told AAP FactCheck that “any motorist who believes an unmarked vehicle attempting to intercept them is not a police vehicle is urged to phone Policelink on 131 444 or if they fear for their safety, they should call Triple Zero (000)”.

Note that Policelink is a Queensland-specific number.

The May 5 post also claims that the “112” number dialled by Chloe goes “straight to the police, because 000 does not work if you have no signal”. 

Australia’s emergency numbers are managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). An ACMA spokesperson told AAP FactCheck in an email that both “000” and “112” work as emergency numbers provided the caller is an area that has some network coverage, even if the coverage is not from the caller’s service provider.

“Your call to 000 or 112 will be carried on any other available mobile network that has coverage for your location,” the ACMA spokesperson said. 

If there is no network coverage it is not possible to place an emergency call. “The coverage is the critical thing — if there’s no coverage, then no mobile will work,” Chris Althaus from the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association told the ABC in 2017

112 is the international standard emergency number, according to the Department of Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Calls made to 000 or 112 are both handled by Telstra operators, who connect you with your requested emergency service, the ACMA spokesperson told AAP FactCheck

The post also states: “Police have to respect your right to keep going to a ‘safe’ place. You obviously need to make some signals that you acknowledge them.” 

In response to the claim QPS told AAP FactCheck that if motorists find themselves in a similar situation to the story in the May 5 Facebook post they should: 

• Stop at a place they feel safe, such as a well-lit area or an area with other people

• Keep their doors locked and windows closed

• Request to see the person’s police identification; and

• Advise the person they are calling police to verify their identity.

Police officer
 A Facebook post tells a scary story about a woman pursued by a fake unmarked police car. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claims of the post to be false. The QPS confirmed that the story outlined in the post is a hoax. And ACMA told AAP FactCheck that the 112 and 000 numbers are both valid to call emergency services, however neither number, nor any other number, can be reached from a mobile phone without mobile reception. 

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/