Hoaxes & Rumors

False Warning: Coin Door Handle Robbery

False Warning: Coin Door Handle Robbery

A warning circulating on social media suggests that a new technique by car thieves involves placing a penny or nickel in the passenger door handle to prevent the vehicle from being locked.

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False Tip

A number of sources appear to cite the website Sun Gazing as the origin of this hint, although it’s possible that site lifted it from another source. The original article claims that car thieves have discovered that wedging a penny or nickel in the passenger door handle will prevent the car from being locked. Thus, crafty thieves place a coin, then lay in wait to follow the victim to wherever they are going. When the driver exits the vehicle and attempts to lock it with the key fob, the coin stuck in the passenger handle will prevent the car from being locked. This, it is said, will allow thieves to break into the car. The article states:

They follow you to wherever you are going. When you attempt to use your key for central locking it won’t work, because the passenger car door is jammed. They then will be able to get into your car and steal anything they want, including the car itself, if they have the know-how!

So be sure to check the passenger car door handle before entering your car, to check that no coin has been inserted. Thieves have also been known to hide in the back to carjack you with this method! So it would be best to check the back seat, or even call 911 in case the thief has climbed into your trunk…Better safe than sorry!

Some versions of the story have been circulated on social media with the suggestion that users share the story with their friends. The article appears to be more click-bait than factual.

Although the warning sounds plausible, car experts we spoke with scoffed at the idea that this would work on modern vehicles. The electronic locking system, we are told, would not be affected by the insertion of a coin in any of the door handles. Moreover, most modern door handles are not designed in a fashion which would allow a coin to be inserted in this manner.

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It’s possible that this technique could work on older cars which use manual locking systems, but the warning above appears to only discuss modern vehicles with electronic locking systems.

In a test of a modern vehicle with a handle which allowed a coin to be inserted, we saw no disruption of the locking or unlocking mechanism. We did not try this out on an older vehicle to see if it worked.

Despite the websites claiming that “criminals have reportedly been using pennies or nickels to break into cars” or “people have been finding coins randomly stuck in the door handles of their vehicles,” these statements are made without citing any official sources to corroborate such claims.

We could find no evidence that this has been reported to be a problem by any law enforcement agency.

According to Autobytel and Edmunds, the most common ways thieves break into cars include breaking windows, opening unlocked doors, finding a “hidden” second set of keys, or jumping into a running vehicle left briefly unattended.

It should also be noted that experts tend to agree that car thieves are not the most patient criminals. A Detroit police Lieutenant told Autobytel that most thieves are “lazy” and “don’t want to have to work very hard to get what they want,” while Edmunds suggests that car theft is usually “a crime of opportunity.”

Bottom Line

An internet warning claims that thieves are wedging pennies or nickels into car door handles as a way to prevent vehicles from being locked. This appears to be an unfounded rumor with no corroboration cited. The story has been repeated on numerous website without citing sources for the claim. Most modern door handles do now allow a coin to be wedged this way, and this would have no effect on modern electronic locking mechanisms.

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