There's been a lot of online chatter about thieves targeting drivers by wedging a plastic water bottle between the tire and the car's body, usually on the passenger side.

Here's How the Ruse Supposedly Works:

  • Would-be crooks place a plastic bottle, like an empty water bottle, on the tire on your car's passenger side. The bottle is typically wedged between the tire and the car's frame.
  • You probably won't notice it when you enter on the driver's side.
  • When you begin to move, the bottle will be crushed and make a great deal of noise.
  • What's your first instinct? Jump out and walk around to the other side of the car to see if something's wrong with your car.
  • Since you probably left personal items like your cellphone or purse in the car, a crook who's lurking nearby now has an opportunity to grab your stuff. If you've left your keys (which most of us probably would) they may even drive off in your car.

Are Thieves Really Targeting Drivers by Placing Water Bottles on Tires?

While the scenario outlined above has gained a lot of traction over the years, the popular myth-debunking site Snopes says this theory is unproven. 

The site states that while crooks typically do use distraction tactics to carjack people, the water bottle trick is rarely deployed.

What are Some Common Carjacking Distractions Used by Criminals?

Snopes indicates that staged car accidents are the most commonly used distraction deployed when crooks are looking to steal someone's vehicle.

thieves put water bottles on tires
Scott Olsen, Getty Images

Attackers may lightly bump a victim's car from behind, then steal the vehicle when the driver jumps out to assess the damage.

Other tricks include the 'Good Samaritan' ruse, where the attacker simulates an accident or injury. When the victim stops to assist, their car is stolen. Thieves may also flash their lights or otherwise try to get a driver's attention. Then, they indicate there's a problem with the victim's car, and when the victim exits the vehicle to inspect the problem, their car is stolen.

While the water bottle trick may seem plausible, it doesn't appear to be a widely used tactic for stealing vehicles. Still, it's always best to be aware of your surroundings and try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.


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